CLIPSTERS & CO. ADVICE -Dogs and Fireworks – Keeping Them Safe And Calm
Fireworks – fun for some, but not generally for our four-legged friends. For dogs, fireworks can be a source of anxiety and fear. Many dogs find the flashes, and more significantly the loud noises terrifying. As owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure their safety and comfort during fireworks events. Whether they’re at home or out and about, here are some tips and advice on how to keep them safe and calm, and help you to cope as well.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
Dogs’ fear of fireworks is a common issue. It’s not surprising when you consider their sharper senses. In particular, dogs have an acute sense of hearing, and the noise fireworks can produce will often seem far louder to them than they do to us. The sudden, loud explosions can startle and overwhelm them. Most dogs aren’t used to being exposed to sharp, loud noises, even in cities and noisy environments. The sudden noise of a firework can lead to fear and anxiety.
In some cases, the bright flashes and the unpredictable nature of fireworks can further contribute to dogs’ anxiety. They won’t not understand what’s causing these disturbances, and they won’t be able to predict if or when more is to come. This uncertainty can intensify their fear.
Recognising Signs of Fear
Before we look at how to help your dog cope with fireworks, it’s important to recognise the signs of fear or anxiety. Common signs can include:
- Trembling or shaking
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Hiding or seeking refuge in a safe place (including under the bed, sofa, table etc.)
- Restlessness and pacing
- Whimpering or barking excessively
- Loss of appetite
If your dog displays any of these signs during fireworks displays, do what you can to alleviate their distress.
Preparing for Fireworks with your Dog
In the UK, fireworks are generally on sale throughout autumn and into winter. Their use generally peaks around 5th November, but they’re often used for celebrations (and general entertainment) throughout the period upto New Year. In the run-up to that time, try some of these:
Create a Safe Indoor Space
Create a quiet, secure space in your home where your dog can retreat to. This could be a dark room with curtains drawn, or a bed or crate covered with a blanket. Make it comfortable with their favourite toys, bedding, and water. Try to include chew toys – chewing can be very comforting to an anxious dog.
Give Them Freedom
Let your dog roam around your home. They may seek out their own safe space. They may want to come to you for comfort. It may be tempting to keep them to the quitest room. That could increase their anxiety. Make sure exterior doors are closed.
Close Windows and Curtains
Try to reduce the noise and lights by closing windows and curtains. This can help muffle the sound of the fireworks and block out the bright flashes.
Consider Calming Noise
Play calming music, run a white noise machine or app, or have a television or radio on. These can help drown out the sound of fireworks with a more regular sound and provide a comforting background noise. Pick something that is consistent and familiar – human voices, soft music – not action films or rock music. Keep the volume at a comfortable level.
In the months leading up to fireworks season, consider using recorded fireworks sounds (or a fireworks simulator app) at a low volume and gradually increasing it over time. As part of a training programme, this can help desensitise your dog to the noises. If in doubt, consult a professional trainer.
Specialist Accessories like ThunderShirts, Zenshirts, and Happy Hoodies
Snug-fitting shirts can provide a sense of security for some dogs and may help reduce anxiety. Items like Happy Hoodies, fit comfortably over your dog’s ears, helping to muffle the noise (vets and groomers often use them for dogs that react to the noise of dryers or other equipment).
Look into whether your dog’s diet might be affecting their mood and behaviour more generally. Some dogs can be more nervy or hyperactive if their diet contains certain ingredients or additives. Speak to a vet or nutritionist to understand more about food and behaviour.
Dogs can pick up on your emotions. Try to remain calm and composed during fireworks. Act normally with your dog. Don’t fuss too much around them. Reassure them with a soothing voice and gentle petting. Let them come to you. Avoid coddling or being overly affectionate, howver, as it can reinforce their feeling of something being wrong.
Consult a Vet
If your dog’s fear of fireworks and loud noises is severe, especially if it results in behaviour that could harm themselves or others, consult your vet. They may recommend calming medication or other treatments to help manage your dog’s anxiety. Never use any medicines with veterinary advice.
Microchipping, GPS and ID Tags
Make sure your dog’s microchip and ID tags are up-to-date and with your contact information. If you can, use a GPS tracker. In the event that your dog gets frightened and runs off or escapes your home, this will increase the chances of a safe return. Also make sure gates and fences are repaired.
Avoid Fireworks Exposure
If possible, keep your dog inside and avoid taking them to fireworks events. Even if your dog is usually sociable and generally calm, the stress of the event with the noise, smells and crowds, can lead to unpredictable behaviour. It’s best to stay at home with your dog.
And In Conclusion…
Fireworks can be a source of great anxiety for our canine companions. With the right preparation and care, however, we can help them navigate the challenge. Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another, even in the same household. Be patient and understanding, and prioritise your dog’s safety and wellbeing during fireworks season. Creating a safe space, allowing them the freedom to find you or their own space, and ongoing training are all ideas and suggestions. If you’re concerned about their behaviour and reactions to loud noises, consult your vet or a professional traininer.
Also conside some of these tips to help you cope with thunderstorms.
If you have any thoughts, questions or your own tips on helping your dog to cope with fireworks, add them to the comments.