As firework night approaches in the UK there will be many dog owners worrying about having dogs scared of fireworks.
While it is a reasonably common dog fear, and we can understand that they are scared by the loud and unpredictable sounds, firework events only take place once or twice a year so it is difficult to get a dog acclimatized to the sounds.
How Do Dogs React When They are Scared of Fireworks?
The way dogs react to the sound of fireworks can range from slight unease to blind panic. Some dogs will creep away and find somewhere to hide such as under a bed or in a cupboard, others will bark and whine, while some will tremble with fear.
Be careful if you are out with your dog during a firework display as some dogs will become frantic and try and run away. You’ll need to make sure you have a firm hold of their lead and that they are not able to slip their collar. The same approach is necessary if you have a dog that panics indoors too, make sure you contain them or have them on a lead so they can’t damage themselves or anyone else while they are frantic.
How You Can Help a Dog Scared of Fireworks
First a few don’ts:
Don’t expose your dog unnecessarily to fireworks as it won’t help them get use to the noise and is more likely to increase their fear.
Don’t make a big fuss of your dog when they are afraid as this will reinforce that their behaviour is right.
Don’t get anxious yourself as this will be picked up on by your dog and will only increase their anxiety.
What you can do to help:
If you have the time, you can try to desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks. You can buy CD’s with the noise of fireworks on that you can play to your dog, starting with a low intensity and gradually building the sound levels and length of exposure overtime. You need to couple this with things your dog responds positively to like treats or play.
Stay calm and don’t react to the fireworks yourself. Act as if they are nothing to be worried about. If your dog wants to hide, let them and make sure you don’t make any fuss.
Use background noise such as music, the radio or TV to try and block out the fireworks and make sure your windows are closed and the dog can spend time as far away from the noise as possible.
If you have a dog with an extreme fear of fireworks that really get out of control, it may be worth talking to a vet about prescribing anti-anxiety medication. There are also two other products that many other dog owners have found effective in helping calm a dog, although they are not guaranteed to remove the fear completely.
The Thundershirt which is a little jacket that the dogs wears and works by applying pressure to the dog’s torso.
DAP, which pumps a synthetic pheromone into the air which has a soothing effect on a dog.
If you are going to the firework display yourself and leaving your dog home alone, make sure that you leave them in a safe and secure environment where they cannot hurt themselves. Do not give them access to the outside during the fireworks as they can react very unpredictably.