Halloween isn’t the last of the scary events in the year, especially for your pets.
November 5th is Bonfire Night, which brings fireworks too. But as any pet owners know, the fireworks aren’t just on this night, with petitions cropping up every year to have them banned for public sale as they are so unpredictable.
Fireworks going off can cause a whole heap of issues for dog parents. From nervousness within the home to dogs even running off during walks, it causes just as much stress amongst pet owners.
As seeing that Autumn is the start of Fireworks season, you may need to prepare early to ensure they are as comfortable as they can be throughout, and any surprise fireworks don’t cause too much distress.
PDSA’s 2018 Paw Report found that over 40% of owners of cats and dogs report that their pet is scared of fireworks, so you aren’t alone if this is an issue. Every pet can be scared of fireworks, but it is thought that it is a particular problem within the dog community.
The below also applies if your dog is scared of thunderstorms, the sound of wind or rain, or other loud noises in the home such as the vacuum cleaner or washing machine.
Signs Of Stress In Dogs
- Trembling and shaking
- Wanting to be close to owners
- Excessive barking or growling
- Cowering and hiding
- Going to the toilet in the house
- Pacing and panting
- Trying to escape the home
- Refusing to eat
- Destructive behaviour
How To Make Sure Your Dog Has A Fright-Free Fireworks Night
Certain things will work for certain dogs. It may take some time to work out what is best for your pet; some could simply need distracting, while others may require more of an intervention.
- Use Calming Aids
They exist for a reason. There are loads of different forms of calming aid, from pheromone plugins and sprays to tablets or drops which are added to food and water. You can even get Thundershirts which your dog can wear, which has a comforting effect on them.
Some have to be given throughout the year to have the best effect, but there are also some quick fixes such as dog treats which can have a quicker result.
- Distract The With Sound
We aren’t condoning putting your speakers on 100% and disturbing the neighbours to drown the bangs out, but calming music can help keep your dog relaxed, too. Reggae and soft rock are the most relaxing music for dogs in shelters according to previous studies, and classical music also helps calm down dogs in stressful environments (so don’t go putting Pitbull on).
Classic FM in the UK partnered with the RSPCA last year to host special dog-friendly shows around Fireworks night, and there are loads of Spotify playlists and YouTube videos with suitable dedicated music
Just don’t put the music on too loud for dogs who are actually sensitive to loud noises as it won’t help. Don’t think of it as drowning out the sounds, but creating some background soothing.
- Start Early
Obviously, we know this isn’t always the most practical solution, but it is always worth thinking about the future.
Whatever age they are, ensure that they are used to loud noises from the off. This can start with ordinary noises such as the television, vacuum and other appliances in the home, and then you can build-up to fireworks noises, by using socialisation CDs or playlists through music streaming sites.
If your dog is concerned with fireworks, there is a good chance that other noises scare them too
Always be with them when these noises are happening, so you can comfort them and use positive reinforcement. For older pets or rescues, prepare for fireworks night well in advance as they will take a bit longer to get used to things.
- Follow Their Lead
It is unlikely that your dog will every be 100% happy with the sound of fireworks, but just because they aren’t a quivering mess doesn’t mean they aren’t still uncomfortable. Allow them to do what they want to do – if they need to hide in a dark corner, or sit on your knee, let them.
They may look to you for reassurance, so it would be good to distract them, reassure them and be calm yourself, completely ignoring the fireworks and instead, chatting with the rest of the household. If they do want to hide, make a little den in their safe space.
- Keep Them Inside
A pretty obvious point, but it can be easy to forget that the likelihood of a firework going off can increase as soon as the dark nights start closing in. Don’t take your dog for a walk when it is dark, and you may even want to just stick to the morning. Instead, encourage playing in the home for their activity levels.
- Reduce The Risk Of Escape
As we have said, a sign of stress in a dog is trying to escape. It doesn’t mean they don’t like where they are, but they just want to get away from the situation without thinking of what they are doing. Ensure your garden is well secured in case any go off when they are at the toilet during the night. It is best to wait until the legal curfew has passed to let them out but this isn’t always possible.
Microchips are legal anyway in case of escape, but you may also want to ensure their collar with an ID tag is on at all times
- Draw The Curtains
Even those silent fireworks can still create quite the flash of light, which your dog may associate with the noise even if they don’t hear it. Keeping curtains and blinds closed will keep these flashes out, and leave a lot of lights on in the home to drown them out too.
- Don’t Keep Them In One Room
Being confined can further add to the stress. Not only could they injure themselves or damage things if trying to get out, but they could see it as a punishment which then further makes them nervous when they hear a loud noise. Even if you usually try and limit where they go, such as not allowing them to go upstairs, let them off for one night.
- Keep Them Hydrated
Dogs are likely to pant when nervous, and they may go off eating and drinking too. Always ensure their water bowl is filled up anyway, but if you notice that they aren’t eating or drinking, think outside the box. Chews, dog-friendly ice lollies and offering water and food from your hand are some alternatives.
- If All Else Fails, Consult A Vet
If nothing works, don’t just give up and decide that you need to put up with it. Consult a vet, who may be able to prescribe stronger calming medication. They could also point you in the direction of a behaviourist who could work on calming exercises, showing you what to do as well as desensitising your dog.