My dog’s scared of fireworks – what should I do?
For owners who have dogs scared of fireworks, bonfire night or any other time associated with loud bangs and flashes, such as New Year’s Eve, can be a problematic time. The PDSA’s 2018 Paw Report found that around 40% of owners of cats and dogs report that their pet is afraid of fireworks. Watching your dog becoming distressed can be very upsetting, if they are scared of the noise created by fireworks. While some dogs bark excessively at fireworks, others will try to run away or display other symptoms of stress.
The Blue Cross, one of the UK’s leading animal welfare charities, says:
“Dogs show they are stressed or anxious in lots of ways, including panting excessively, drooling, shaking, yawning, and putting their tail between their legs.”
We have put together a list of suggestions to help dogs who are scared of fireworks and hope that it will help your pooch to cope.
1. Prepare for bonfire night well in advance
Unfortunately, ‘firework season’ now seems to span several weeks rather than being concentrated on one particular night. It’s a good idea to start preparations well in advance of this time of year. You may be able to acclimatise your dog to the sound of fireworks by introducing loud noises in a controlled manner. You can buy noise CDs or download content which is designed for this purpose.
2. Research what is happening in your local area
It is worth taking some time to check when and where firework displays are happening, which will be within your dog’s earshot. You can also ask neighbours to let you know if they are planning any unofficial displays too. This research will help you to be prepared.
3. Ensure information is up to date
If your dog becomes scared by fireworks, this can lead to unpredictable behaviour. A dog which is normally obedient may bolt whilst outside, or try to escape from your house. It is therefore especially important to make sure that your dog is wearing a tag on their collar and is microchipped. Make sure that both contain your up to date contact details.
4. Build your pup a safe place to hide if they are one of the many dogs scared of fireworks
Dogs who are sensitive to firework noise may like to hide somewhere small and dark. Why not build them a cosy den and teach them to use it well in advance? This can be done easily by covering a crate or table with a blanket so they can go inside or under. You may also find that your dog already naturally goes behind or under certain items of furniture if they are worried. Why not make this into their den? Prior to fireworks, teach them to use their den to rest and make it enjoyable by putting their favourite toys and treats inside.
5. Walk your dog earlier in the day
As fireworks are far more likely to be set off after dark, it makes sense to try to walk your dog during daylight hours where possible. Make sure that you take them outside for a toilet break just before dusk as it may be some time before you can let them outside again. If you do have to take them outside when fireworks are being let off, ensure that your garden is completely escape proof. You may wish to keep them on a lead even if they are in your own garden.
6. Think about your dog’s needs
Make sure that your dog’s water bowl is frequently topped up because anxious dogs naturally pant more and may be more thirsty than usual. Don’t worry about sticking to their usual routine too rigidly. It can be a good idea to feed them before you expect the fireworks to start, if you suspect they may become anxious.
7. Prepare your home
As dusk starts to fall, shut all doors and windows and draw the curtains. This will help to reduce the noise and block out strange sights. Keep your dog inside the home and if you have to answer the door, make sure your dog is shut inside another room first. You could also try using a pheromone plugin. This will emit scents that calm dogs but won’t be noticed by humans. The idea is to create a feeling of safety.
8. Be there for your dog and create a happy atmosphere
The most important thing you can do for your dog is to be with them in person. Leaving your dog at home alone whilst there are fireworks will only increase their anxiety. Try to behave normally because if you are calm and happy, this will send positive signals to your dog. It is vital to remember that it is only natural for a dog to be scared of unfamiliar loud sounds and sights. Reward calm behaviour with either play or tasty treats and don’t tell them off if they aren’t their usual obedient self.
Give your dog the option to choose whether they want to hide or come to you for comfort. If they are happy to participate in play, an easy game with a toy or searching for treats can be a great distraction. It can also be helpful to turn on the television or radio loud enough to mask any unfamiliar noises.
9. Ask your vet for help with your dog’s firework anxiety
If your dog suffers from severe firework anxiety, it is advisable to consult your vet. They will be able to offer the best advice on remedies and medications and whether they will be suitable for your dog. Another option is to consult a local, qualified dog behaviourist for advice. They can offer valuable help in safeguarding the health and happiness of your dog and making sure their experience of firework season is as positive as possible.
10. What should I do if I will be on holiday during firework season?
At Barking Mad Dog Care, we offer home from home dog care for when you have to go away without your best friend. Our dog sitting host families are experienced dog lovers who will do their utmost to ensure your dog feels happy and settled in their home. If your dog suffers with firework anxiety and you are planning on booking them a Barking Mad dog holiday, please let us know and so we can offer extra support.
Barking Mad, the UK’s leading home dog boarding provider, assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health – even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available.