Fireworks can be a lot of fun for humans, but they can be terrifying for dogs. The loud noises and flashing lights can trigger a dog’s fight-or-flight instinct, leading to anxiety, fear, and even aggressive behaviour.
With November 5th fast approaching and New Year’s Eve not that far away either, here are some tips to help your dog deal with fireworks night.
Create a safe space for your dog
This could be a crate, a quiet room in the house, or even just a corner under a blanket. Make sure the space is comfortable and has everything your dog needs, such as food, water, and a bed. Use a familiar blanket and their favourite toy to give even more reassurance or include an item of your clothing so they have a comforting and reassuring scent. Create the space now. Don’t wait until the big night. Your dog needs time to get used to the space.
Mask the noise of the fireworks
This can be easier said than done with the noise of bangers these days, but you can help by playing white noise, such as the sound of a fan or TV, or by turning up the volume on the radio. Classic FM radio station will once again have special programmes on 4th and 5th November with calming music to help you and your pooch deal with the stress of the fireworks season.
Distract your dog
Give your dog something to focus on other than the fireworks, such as a favourite toy, a treat-filled Kong or a long lasting and safe to eat chew. You can also try playing games or doing some training exercises with them when the worst of the noise is happening outside.
Be patient and reassuring
Let your dog know that you’re there for them and that they’re safe. Avoid comforting them in a way that is too over-the-top, as this can reinforce their fear. Instead, try to stay calm and collected but do show them love and affection and if they usually cuddle up on the couch with you in the evening then encourage this reassuring behaviour. They will also want to know that you feel safe and protected too.
Use pee pads
If your dog is too scared to go outside it will be worth getting some pee pads in so they can urinate without having to go outside. Imagine you are too scared to even go to the toilet? No, it isn’t something we would want to inflict on our best friends so it will be worth it. Let them know it’s okay to use the pads or if you take them outside to toilet it might be a good idea to keep them on the lead to help build feelings of security and also avoid any chance of them bolting if they get a fright.
Here are some additional tips for helping your dog cope with fireworks:
Desensitise your dog to the sound of fireworks
You can do this by playing recordings of fireworks at a low volume and gradually increasing the volume over time. Pair the sound of the fireworks with positive experiences, such as treats, praise or their favourite game. Clearly if your dogs is too distressed for this technique then don’t push it as this could make their fears worse. You will have to use your knowledge and judgement as your pet’s best friend before you embark on this road.
Socialise your dog to fireworks
If possible, take your dog to a fireworks display or another event where they will be exposed to fireworks, as long as they don’t get too distressed by the experience. Start at a distance and gradually move closer as your dog becomes more comfortable. Try to do this at a young age before the fear sets in but only if they aren’t already terrified as this will only intensify their fear.
Use a natural calming supplement
PetExx Stress Less contains natural stress busting ingredients like L=Tryptophan and Valerian that can help reduce anxiety and stress in pets. Valerian helps reduce interactions between neurons and nerve transmitters which in turn produces a calming effect.
You can also try using a calming pheromone diffuser, wrap them in a blanket or use a ThunderShirt, which is a pressure wrap that can help to reduce anxiety in dogs.
Talk to your vet
If your dog’s fear of fireworks is severe, your vet may prescribe medication to help them stay calm.
With a little planning and preparation, you can help if your dog fears fireworks.