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Dogs and fireworks aren't a great match, as you'll know if you've seen your pup cower at the sound of thunder. It's only natural to want to include your pooch in festive outdoor fun, but pets and fireworks just don't don't mix.
Many dogs suffer from a phobia of loud noises, and the bright flashes of light that accompany fireworks can add to their stress and anxiety. As mentioned in this article, dogs also have a much more sensitive sense of hearing, so those loud booms are much more frightening to your dog. If your dog, like most, runs for cover at the sound of a firecracker, read on to learn how to help them relax.
How to Keep Your Dog Calm and Safe During Fireworks
Pets and fireworks might not go well together, but there are steps you can take so that the explosions have less of an effect on your pup. Here are some dos and don'ts to help manage your dog's stress and keep them safe during fireworks season.
Do keep them indoors with the windows closed and curtains drawn to help muffle loud noises and flashing lights. The RSPCA offers a guide to creating a "doggy safe den" to make your pup feel safe. If you have a basement where your dog can be safely out of earshot of the fireworks, this might be an even better option.
Do make sure they get plenty of exercise earlier in the day. This means they can expend extra energy that might otherwise add to their anxiety when the fireworks start going off.
Do check that windows and doors are kept closed and make sure that any potential escape routes in your garden are secured, recommends Battersea Dogs Home. It's believed that more pets go missing on Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve as a result of firework anxiety, so it's critical to take every precaution to keep them from running away.
Do make sure they're wearing a properly fitted collar and that the information on their tags and microchips is correct and up to date, just in case they manage to run away.
Do provide a fun distraction, such as a favourite chew toy or a toy filled with their favourite treat, to occupy their attention while fireworks go off.
Do put the TV or radio on to help drown out the firework noise. Music with gentle sounds is typically best to help ease their anxiety.
- Don't let your pup tag along to a fireworks display, no matter how much you'd love for them to be there.
- Don't act any differently or acknowledge their fear. It will only reinforce their anxious behaviour.
- Don't let them off of their lead outside of a fenced-in area during fireworks season. If they get spooked, they could run off and end up getting lost.
Desensitising Your Dog to Fireworks
Dogs and fireworks don't have to be a terrible match, and your pooch's fear isn't inevitable. According to the Dogs Trust, puppies who are safely and gradually exposed to loud noises within the essential socialisation window of 3 to 16 weeks are better able to cope with loud noises like fireworks.
If your dog is an adult, it's not too late to desensitise them through exposure therapy. The UK Kennel Club says that noise tracks can be played in the run-up to firework night to desensitise dogs and prepare them for loud noises.
Here's how to desensitise your dog...
While your dog is engaged in an activity they enjoy, like cuddling or enjoying a dog treat, play a video or recording of fireworks going off at a low volume. Do this several times throughout the day. After several days, gradually begin raising the volume — but don't push it. If they seem afraid, turn the volume back down and continue at a slower pace. Keep practicing in this way until your dog can hear the video at a loud volume without becoming afraid.
Dealing With Extreme Phobia
If the above solutions don't help, your pooch may need additional assistance to overcome their fear. Special jackets for dogs have been shown to help comfort them during loud events like fireworks displays and thunderstorms. Your vet might also have some solutions for how to help keep your dog calm, so it doesn't hurt to call them up and ask.
Stress-Free Fireworks for Fido
When the fireworks start, it's best for your pup to call it a night. Providing a safe, quiet place for him to chill out is one of the best ways you can give your dog a happy holiday.
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.