How to Calm a Dog Down During Fireworks

Some dogs get anxious and stressed at the sound of fireworks. Read expert advice from Petplan about how to keep your dog calm during a fireworks display.

Your pets, especially cats, rabbits, and dogs, find it difficult to understand what is actually happening. Those bright flashes, screeching rockets, and thundering bangs would be enough to frighten anyone.

Your pet’s reactions to these sights and sounds will often result in anxious and stressed behaviour and you may experience them trying to run away and hide in a corner, toileting in the house, refusing to eat, trembling, or general destructive behaviour.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way, and there are plenty of ways you can reduce the stress experienced by your four-legged friends.

Always plan ahead

With around 45% of the UK’s dogs fearing fireworks, according to the RSPCA, you need to plan ahead and take steps to help keep your dog calm and safe in the weeks preceding such displays. A little forward thinking goes a long way in these kinds of situations and will make things a lot easier to deal with when fireworks fill the skies once again.

If you are unsure when your neighbours plan to set off fireworks, why not send them a note to ask them, so that you can be prepared. You can download our Note to a Neighbour here.

Desensitisation therapy

This is actually a relatively straightforward treatment that will allow your pet to accept more of the loud noises and bright lights without panicking, ultimately allowing them to cope better with the fireworks season.

Due to dogs’ capacity for learning through experiences, this treatment definitely works best on them. You can start by accessing YouTube and introducing them to the sights and sounds of fireworks over a gradual period of time. The ideal length of training should be roughly six weeks.

Once your dog is comfortable you can play the sounds at a very low volume so that they can settle, this first session doesn’t need to be too intense or long, but with each subsequent session try increasing the volume and length of time ever so slightly until you think they have achieved a reasonable level of tolerance. It’s always good to combine this sound method with a stuffed food toy or a very high value bone that can be given with supervision and removed once the session stops.

It’s important not to turn it up to the point that your dog notices it and shows stress-based behaviours. If this happens, turn the volume down and start at a level your dog can cope with. The process requires time and patience, it also may need to be repeated each year, but if your pet is receptive to the treatment then it’s a great way to help them get comfortable.

Ensure your dog is microchipped

Worst-case scenario, any dog that does get out or run away from home while fireworks are going off can be reunited with their owner much more easily if they have been microchipped. Microchipping your dog is now a legal requirement, so really, it’s just a question of you ensuring everything is working as it should be in the lead-up to any firework-heavy occasions.

On The Day

Walk them during daylight hours

A long walk or playful exercise in the daytime helps lessen any extra energy that may trigger your dog’s anxiety when fireworks start later on. If your dog is winding down while the fireworks are underway, the less anxious they will be.

Keep windows and curtains closed

This will help muffle the noise of fireworks. But remember, it’s not only the sound of fireworks that can cause distress for dogs, it’s also the light and flashes across the sky – something to keep in mind if you’re particularly concerned about your dog’s eye health. Leaving lights on indoors reduces the impact of these flashes.

Create a quiet space

This should be a zone where your dog can feel in control. Dogs may also be most comfortable with access to all quiet areas of the house rather than a designated ‘safe place’, so allow them that freedom of curling up wherever they fancy as the fireworks pop and hiss outside.

Provide a long-lasting chew to help keep them distracted

Anything to take their mind off the bright lights and loud noises. Just make sure that whatever you feed your dog doesn’t interfere with, or deviate from, their regular diet.

Show them you’re not bothered

Animals are highly perceptive and will notice if you’re behaving unusually. Following your dog around or being overly affectionate may cause them to feel nervous or confused. If your dog can see that fireworks have no effect on you, this may help ease their anxiety.

Keep their water bowl full

It’s important that you give your dog plenty of water if you’re expecting fireworks. This is because their body heat rises as they become anxious when hearing (and seeing) the displays. You will also almost certainly notice your dog panting as they get stressed out; giving them water to drink helps maintain calmness as well as hydration levels.

Never shout at your dog

This should go without saying, especially if they’re already anxious. If you have to leave your house during firework season and come home to find your dog has been destructive or toileted, don’t get angry. Reprimanding them won’t help and will also make your dog more stressed.

Tried everything? Visit your vets

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and your dog is still stressed whenever there’s fireworks, then please consult your vet. Speaking to a dog behaviourist about any potential behavioural issues that may arise around this type of event is also recommended, as they can offer invaluable advice to help safeguard the health and happiness of your dog and make sure their experience of fireworks is as positive as possible.

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