It shouldn’t be a surprise that loud bangs, high-pitched sounds, flashes of light
and the strange smell of fireworks are likely to frighten many dogs.
Unfortunately, firework displays aren’t limited to 5th November, so it’s best to be
prepared from October through New Year’s Eve. Of course, at any time someone
locally may decide that what their party really needs are fireworks which you
may not be aware of until startled yourself by a sudden whoosh, bang!
For those of you with puppies or who have dogs yet to worry too much about
fireworks, it's well worth getting them used to the noise they make. You can find sound clips online. Start by introducing the sounds quietly and, so long as your puppy can carry on eating or playing and ignoring it, very gradually increase the volume over the coming days and weeks.
If you already know your dog is terrified of fireworks, do speak to your vet or a
dog behaviourist for advice as there isn't a quick fix. Sometimes medication can
help. But if the fireworks season is nearly upon you, there are a number of things
you can do to help your dog at the time.
- Safety first: keep your dog on lead, even in the garden, unless you’re
absolutely certain they can’t get out. Check their collar or harness is
secure, that microchip information is up to date, and that they’re wearing
their ID tag. A frightened dog may scramble over a fence or tunnel
through a hedge.
- Be there: your dog will find it far harder to cope alone. Ignore old-school
advice that it’s wrong to comfort them. You will help by being a reassuring
presence. And, just as you might with a nervous small child, be calm and
comforting. If they seek your lap or a soothing hand, do offer it.
- Provide a ‘safe place’: many dogs will find it helpful to have a covered
den in an area where they feel most comfortable. Bear in mind that where
they feel safest when stressed is your dog’s choice – it might be in their
crate, under a bed or behind a sofa. Wherever they are likely to choose,
cover it perhaps with an old duvet to reduce the noise and flashing lights.
Don’t shut them in as they may panic if they feel both scared and trapped.
Close windows and draw the curtains if possible.
- Think about exercise and toileting. Plan walks well before dusk in the
hope of avoiding the fireworks and try and get them to toilet before it
kicks off. They may be too scared to go out to toilet later, and you may
have to get up in the middle of the night or very early to take your dog out
instead. It’s probably a good idea to leave newspaper or pads on the floor,
just in case.
- Alternative sounds: play music or have the TV on. In recent years,
Classic FM has offered a programme of calming music designed to help pets relax on 5th November. There are also sites where you can play music that’s specially written to calm dogs. The white noise from a simple box fan can also prove very helpful in calming some dogs.
- Distracting your dog isn’t always possible but well worth trying. Have
their favourite treats and good tasty chews available, play games, try
gentle massages. But if they just want to hide away, allow them to do so.
- There are a number of products designed to calm pets. You can try
diffusers or sprays. Your dog may benefit from a body wrap or hoodies
designed to go over their ears – but get them used to these well in
Remember, only your dog can decide what’s helpful! With a little preparation, hopefully your dog will get through it all relatively calmly.
For more training advice, please visit our dog coach Vicky Carne's website.