How to help your dog cope with fireworks

Bonfire night is fast approaching and this means fireworks!  It is very common for dogs to be frightened of fireworks and other loud noises as they can find the unpredictable bangs and flashes distressing.

Any celebrations where fireworks are used can be very stressful for dogs and their owners.  Dogs have a number of behaviours that show they are stressed and anxious including, trembling and shaking, pacing, panting, destructive behaviour, whining, barking, panting and attempts to escape.

Even if your dog seems to cope well with fireworks and other loud noises you should still observe him for signs of stress and anxiety.  Dogs can develop fears of this in later life and it can only take one incident.

If your dog is frightened of fireworks then read the tips below to help you and your dog cope during the firework season:-

  1. Make sure your dog has a good walk earlier in the day.  If he is tired he is much more likely to relax later on.
  2. Keep your dog inside after dark when fireworks are likely to be set off, and if he has to go outside ensure he is supervised as he may attempt to escape if a firework takes him by surprise.
  3. Ensure your dog is wearing a collar and ID tag in case of a successful escape attempt.
  4. Close all windows and doors and lock cat and dog flaps to keep noise to a minimum and to stop any escape attempts.  Draw curtains and put on the TV or radio so that your dog has some familiar sounds that will provide comfort and also block out some noise.
  5. Try not to leave your pet alone and if you absolutely have to, ensure he is left in a safe dog-proofed area.  Do not get angry if you find your dog has been destructive while you have been away, it is his way of coping with the stress.  Shouting and aggressive behaviour will only make him more stressed and frightened.
  6. Some dogs just want to withdraw and hide when frightened so prepare a ‘doggy den’ with blankets, cushions, favourite toys etc so that he has somewhere to hide if he wants, maybe under the dining table if he likes lying under there anyway.  The blankets and cushions should help to block out some of the noise for him too.
  7. Offer your dog a good chew toy, e.g. a Kong stuffed with treats or a good rawhide chew to keep him distracted.  Having something to do can help to relieve stress.
  8. Make sure that you are confident, calm and ignore the fireworks yourself.  Just act normally and show your pet it is no big deal.
  9. Never fuss, pet or cuddle your dog if he is showing signs of fear or distress.  You may think you are helping, but you will actually be reinforcing that behaviour with a reward and this will result in your dog thinking he should be scared.
  10. If your pet is showing signs of fear or distress completely ignore him unless he is in imminent danger, i.e. self-harming or injuring himself trying to escape.
  11. If your pet does show calm behaviour, especially while fireworks are being set off then praise him to show that he is now behaving in the correct way.  If he is behaving calmly and rewarded for it then he is more likely to behave that way in future.
  12. For dogs who are severely affected by fireworks and loud noises desensitization CDs of loud noises can help if used in the run up to such events as bonfire night.
  13. Alternatively, DAP diffusers can help by dispersing calming pheromones into the room.
  14. In severe cases of fear it is advisable to seek help from your vet or a pet behaviour counsellor.  As a last resort, your vet may prescribe medication to help.

If you have a new puppy that has not yet experienced fireworks you can use prevention methods to ensure he does not develop a fear or phobia of fireworks and loud noises.

Make sure your puppy has lots of socialization and early exposure to lots of different experiences, sights, sounds and people but as above, never make a fuss of your puppy if he does show some anxiety or fear as a result of loud noises.  Act calmly and confidently so that your puppy knows that there is no problem.  Never reinforce stressful and anxious behaviour by rewarding with cuddles, fuss or treats otherwise you will be teaching your puppy that he is acting appropriately by being scared!

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  6. Tips To Help Your Pets Cope With Fireworks | Newsmob News aggregator and blog news says:

    […] to keep the flashing lights from scaring the pet. You can also turn the TV or radio on as this will provide more natural sounds for the pets to listen to and won’t make the loud noise appear as stark and […]

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