Some dogs cope fine with the sound of fireworks, but some can understandably become terrified. This then develops into a really traumatic time, especially as fireworks are set off some days before and after November 5th, as well as at New Year’s & other occasions.
Below are some tips which you can implement in the weeks leading up to fireworks night, as well as on the actual evenings when fireworks are being let off in your neighbourhood.
(If however, your dog is already extremely fearful of fireworks or other noises, please do seek more extensive behavioural help from a qualified behaviourist).
To avoid your dog developing firework fear, try to introduce them to the sounds of fireworks in the weeks before Bonfire Night, so they become gradually desensitised – it is possible to purchase CD’s with pre-recorded sounds, or download them, online. (Search ‘sound therapy for dogs’). Low-level exposure to the sounds, at a low volume, (which can then be gradually increased as your dog is happy to tolerate), in conjunction with doing
a pleasant activity, (playing a game, working at a stuffed Kong), can help habituate your dog to these new noises.
The use of an ‘Adaptil’ product - collar, diffuser or spray - which is a copy of the natural comforting pheromones given out by the puppies’ mother whilst in the litter, can also help maintain a nice, calm acceptance of firework
noise, if introduced during times when the dog is doing something enjoyable.
Use of a ‘Thundershirt’ or other similar bodywraps / T-shirts, can help by ‘swaddling’ your dog during stressful times, helping them feel calm and secure.
Try not to make a big issue of the fireworks noise – act as normal as possible and give your dog nice things to do e.g. working a Kong toy stuffed full with tasty treats. This makes a good association with the firework noises and this also distracts the dog & keeps them occupied doing something else.
Do some training or play a game, so your dog is having fun and not focussing on the noises outside.
Turn up the TV or radio slightly, to try to muffle the sounds outside, close the curtains and have a main light on in the room to make the flashes of fireworks less noticeable.
Try to walk your dog earlier to minimise the risk of being caught out with early evening fireworks being set off all around you – similarly, make sure your dog has been out to the toilet before any fireworks begin.
As a precautionary measure, don’t allow your dog off the lead in case a firework is set off and your dog takes fright and bolts off.
Create a safe cosy ‘den area’ for your dog to go to if they so choose – a crate covered with a blanket, (with door left open), or under a table with a long overhanging tablecloth, make for nice secure places.
Try not to leave your dog ‘home alone’ whilst the fireworks are on.
If your dog is taking notice of the fireworks and seems to be worried, it is important not to comfort & reassure them, nor scold them, as this will then confirm to them that there is something to be scared of & make the problem escalate.
Keep a jolly demeanour instead and try to keep your dog busy – if your dog chooses to cuddle up with you on the sofa, that’s fine, let them feel secure by being close to you, but again, remember not to overly comfort & reassure, just act normal & watch TV etc.
Lastly, make sure any catflaps or outside doors are secure, so your dog, or indeed your cat, cannot attempt to escape.