The RSPCA suggests that 62% of dogs show distress during fireworks. A quick poll of the Gudog team and we’re all in agreement: not one of us have a dog who likes them.
While we have to admit we’re a fan of organised fireworks displays (sorrynotsorry, we like sparkly things), your pooch will have no idea what’s going on, and will sense threat in the unexpected bangs and lights. Because dogs hear sound on a range of frequencies much larger than us humans, those pinprick popping fireworks are actually booming loud noises to our pups.
How to prevent noise anxiety in your dog
Sound training is an excellent way to help dogs overcome a fear of particular noises; our friends at The Dogs Trust have some great advice and free downloads which can help you with this.
Sound training involves playing the distressing noise to your pet at a low level while they engage in positive natural behaviour (like trying to dig food out of a KONG, or playing with their favourite toy).
Over time, you increase the volume of the noise, slowly desensitising them and curbing their fear. Depending on the age and breed of your dog, sound training can take between three and six months, so unfortunately it’s too late for this year.
That’s why we’ve pulled together some tips to help you keep your dog safe and feeling calm this fireworks season.
First, let’s outline the symptoms of a stressed out pooch:
Signs that your dog is spooked
Barking, whining, shaking, ears back, tail between their legs – you know these are all signs of fear in a dog.
But actually, fireworks can be so distressing they stun dogs out of their usual behaviour. Look out for excessive panting, drooling and yawning, as these are all signs that your dog is stressed. They may also try to hide under your bed or behind the sofa, or curl up very still.
How to keep your dog safe and happy this fireworks night
Firstly, keep your dog safe by making sure they are microchipped and wearing an ID tag with your up to date contact details. If our tips below don’t work, and they run away in panic, it’ll mean they’ll be returned to you much quicker.
Before fireworks night
- Find out the date and timings of any organised firework displays planned in your area, and make sure you’re with your pooch in the house during these times.
- Treat your dog to plenty of exercise earlier in the day. Not only will this tire them out and let them do their business stress-free, if you’re out before dusk you’re less likely to have any run-ins with fireworks out in the open.
- Ensure your doggo has had their usual dinner before it gets dark; fireworks can put them off their meal, and being hungry will only make them more stressed.
- Also, keep their water bowl topped up as dogs are likely to drink more when they are worried.
- If you have a pooch who has displayed severe anxiety around fireworks or loud noises before, it might be worth speaking to your vet about medication they can take, or products you can buy at your local pet store. Adaptil, which is known to calm their nerves in response to stress. On their website, you can find collars, room sprays and plug-in diffusers which may help.
- If your pooch is particularly nervy and you know your area will be a fireworks hotspot, it might be worth finding out if there are any dog owner gatherings going on in quieter areas. On November 2nd, our friends over at Dog Furiendly threw a Bonfire Bunker Pawdy! Attendees and their doggo’s enjoyed an evening of games, treats and prizes in a rural location away from screaming fireworks.
During fireworks night
- Obvious, but we’ve got to say it; always keep your dog indoors when fireworks are being let off. If you do need to take them out to relieve themselves, it’s best to keep your dog on-lead if you think fireworks will be let off.
- Close the curtains or shutters to block out the flashing lights and muffle sound.
- Switching the TV on might help also help to muffle the sound, but only do this if your dog is used to the sound of the telly.
- Let your pooch pace, or hide if they want to. Once they have found a safe spot try not to disturb or overfuss them.
- You could even create a ready-made safe space for them by placing their bed in a tucked away area, with some of your clothes in there. Your scent might help to keep your dog calm, even though they may not want you by their side.
- If your dog isn’t a hider, you could always buy them an ‘anxiety wrap’. These clever contraptions work exactly like swaddling a baby; a vest or wrap of fabric applies gentle pressure on your dog’s body, just like a lovely warm hug. Not got time to buy one? Our friends over at Bark Box show you exactly how to make a DIY anxiety wrap for your dog at home.
- Our friends at The Kennel Club advise owners to stay calm and act normally; your pet will sense any unease you have. Give plenty of praise for calm behaviour, and give them a cuddle if they come to you for comfort.
- If they’re doing well, and showing few signs of fear, you can make a fun night out of it by playing some indoor games with your pup. These will serve as a distraction, and keep you both entertained.
- If your dog has a meltdown, or has an accident, don’t scold them. This will only increase their stress. Keep calm and gently coax them out of any destructive behaviour with cuddles, treats or soft words; whichever works the best.
We hope these tips help you and your four legged friend have a happy and safe fireworks night.
Worried about the fireworks next door?
If you are concerned about any firework displays, or are worried that people are using fireworks unsafely in your area, you can report these to the RSPCA. The #BangOutOfOrder campaign run by the RSPCA aims to crack down on the unauthorised use of fireworks. You can read more about it, and find out how to show your support here.