There are countless reasons why we adore dogs. We love their wagging tails, sloppy kisses, and general love of life, but have you noticed that when the nights draw in and firework season starts, your pup gets more and more anxious?
If you’re a dog owner, we’ve got some tips for keeping your pooch as calm as possible during this time of the year:
Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
Before we get started, it is important to look at why dogs are afraid of fireworks. It all comes down to their hearing; their second most-important sense, and it’s super sensitive compared to a human’s hearing. In fact, dogs can hear up to four times further away than you, as well as much higher frequencies (up to 65,000 hertz compared to an adult human’s 20,000 hertz). There’s a reason for the saying: “a sound only dogs can hear!”, after all.
However, with that great gift, comes the bitter-sweet reality of hearing loud, intimidating noises even louder and even more intimidating than we do.
Signs Your Dog May be Scared of Fireworks?
Each dog may display signs of distress differently, but be on the lookout for changes in their behaviour and the following symptoms of stress:
- Shaking or trembling
- Barking or growling
- Cowering or hiding
- Being on edge
- Trying to escape or run away
- Clinging to you
- Vomiting or soiling
- Panting or drooling
How to Prepare Your Dog for Fireworks?
Even though fireworks typically happen on Bonfire Night in the UK, there’s always displays happening in the lead up to 5 November and for weeks afterward. This can make it tricky to know when to expect the loud noises, so best to be prepared throughout October and November.
Do Your Research on Local Events
Be prepared and research when your local area will be hosting their firework display – this way you know when to expect a larger and longer show, and you can prepare your dog as much as possible.
Sadly, due to the continued Coronavirus restrictions these organised shows are highly likely to be cancelled this year. But this could mean more and more people setting off fireworks in their gardens. Having a word with your neighbours about their intentions could give you the heads up you need to prepare properly.
Wherever the source, here are some of our tips to reduce your dog’s stress when there is a firework display. Even though fireworks are let off every year, dogs don’t seem to get used to it, so preparation each time is key.
Avoid Letting your Dog Outside When Fireworks are Most Likely to be Going Off
Your research should show an approximate time the local firework or your neighbour’s display is taking place, so avoid taking your dog outside at these times. Make sure your dog has been exercised and been to the toilet ahead of time, so there doesn’t need to be any last minute dashes to the garden, so you can focus your energy on keeping your dog safe inside.
Don’t Leave your Dog in Silence when Fireworks are Going Off
You may choose to leave your dog at home and go out to visit the display, or you may just happen to be out when there’s an ad hoc firework. If this is the case, don’t leave your dog at home alone in silence. Instead, play some music in the background, leave the TV on, or even stream a dog-friendly podcast, designed to speak to your dog while you’re out and help reduce their firework anxiety.
Draw Curtains or Blinds to Minimise Light Exposure
The sound will be the scariest element of firework night for your dog, but also keep them away from the bright displays, too. These can confuse and frighten your dog. Close your blinds and curtains and minimise your dog’s exposure to the aggressive flashing lights outside. Your dog doesn’t understand what firework night is, so to them, there is just a bunch of random loud and flashing noises and lights – that’s enough to terrify anyone, let alone a dog with an acute sense of hearing.
Avoid Keeping Your Dog in One Room
You’d be forgiven for thinking that keeping your dog in a confined space will help them to settle. In fact, this can cause more problems as they may injure themselves as they try to escape the room, or they think they have done something wrong if they’re not usually put into a room and this will further reinforce the negative connotations around firework noise.
You can build a safety den for your dog and encourage them to try and relax in there but aim to avoid shutting them away in a separate room.
Try Calm Plug Ins
Nowadays, there are lots of supportive technology devices that can help to calm your dog during firework night. These work by using pheromones which are picked up by receptors on your dog, communicating a sense of comfort and security.
Play with and Comfort Your Dog
Of course, if you’re at home, interact and play with your dog so they can be kept distracted. Or give them games and puzzles to keep their mind occupied and stimulated. They may still be afraid each time a firework goes off, but this way they’re distracted between loud bangs, so they’re not as on edge.
Ensure your Dog is Microchipped, and Their Details are Up to Date
Should the worst happen, and your dog escape through fear, then make sure that they are microchipped and that the microchip details are fully up to date so your dog can be found.
Remain Calm; Dogs Can Sense Your Emotions
Dogs are great at sensing emotions, so try not to transfer any of your stress and worry on to them. If your dog is safe at home, you need to focus on mitigating their stress around the noises and then they will be absolutely fine.
If you’re really concerned about your pup’s behaviour, get in touch with your local vet who may be able to prescribe something to calm them down.