Fireworks night, Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night… while the 5th November has different names for different people, one thing is for sure. The constant noise from fireworks over the period is extremely upsetting for dogs.
Many dogs suffer from anxiety and fear during fireworks displays, which can lead to a variety of issues, including restlessness, destructive behaviour, and even attempts to escape.
However, with the right strategies and a little preparation, you can help keep your dog calm and safe during the fireworks period. In this article, we'll explore some effective techniques to help your canine companion cope with the noise and sight of fireworks.
Create a safe space
One of the first steps in helping your dog remain calm during fireworks night is to establish a safe space where they can retreat and feel secure. This could be a cosy corner in your home, a crate, or a room with minimal noise and bright lights. Ensure that your dog's favourite toys, blankets, and perhaps an old piece of your clothing are in this space to provide comfort and familiarity.
Keep them indoors
Fireworks can be extremely loud and startling to dogs. Ensure your pet remains indoors during fireworks displays, as this will help reduce the intensity of the noise and the visual stimuli. Close all doors and windows to minimize sound and light penetration. If your dog needs to go outside, do so before the fireworks begin to avoid exposure to the loud noises.
Distract with background noise
Play soft, soothing music or turn on the television to help drown out the sound of fireworks. The familiar, comforting background noise can help reduce the impact of the loud bangs and whistles from the fireworks. There are even specialised playlists and apps available that are designed for anxious pets.
Counterconditioning is a training technique that involves changing your dog's emotional response to a particular stimulus. It works by using positive reinforcement to help your dog associate fireworks with something positive. Offer treats, engage in play, or use a favourite toy. Over time, your dog may begin to associate fireworks with positive experiences rather than fear.
There are several calming aids and supplements available that can help reduce your dog's anxiety. These include pheromone diffusers, as well as herbal supplements like chamomile and lavender. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best options for your specific dog. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary for severe anxiety.
Anxiety wraps are designed to provide gentle, constant pressure to your dog's body. This pressure can have a calming effect and reduce anxiety during stressful events like fireworks displays. It's a non-invasive and drug-free option to consider for your anxious pup.
This is more of a longer term solution which needs to start well in advance of fireworks night. If your dog's anxiety during fireworks is severe or persistent, consider seeking help from a professional dog trainer or behaviourist. They can provide tailored advice and training to address your dog's specific needs and fears.
It's essential to avoid scolding or punishing your dog for displaying fear or anxiety during fireworks. This can increase their stress and exacerbate the issue. Instead, provide comfort and reassurance, and focus on positive reinforcement to help them feel more at ease.
Planning ahead is crucial to ensure your dog's safety during fireworks night. Make sure your dog has proper identification, such as a well-fitting collar with ID tags and a microchip with up-to-date information. In case your dog does manage to escape due to fear, this will increase the chances of a safe return.
Stay with your dog
During fireworks night, stay with your dog and whatever you do, don’t leave them alone while you go out. Your presence can be a source of comfort and reassurance. Sit with them in their safe space, pet them, and speak to them in a calm, soothing tone. Your dog will find comfort in your presence.
Fireworks night can be a daunting and stressful time for our four-legged friends, but with the right preparations and techniques, you can help keep your dog calm and safe. Creating a safe space, using counterconditioning, and providing calming aids are just a few of the strategies that can make a significant difference.
Remember that every dog is unique, and what works best for one may not work for another. Be patient, understanding, and consult with your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer if needed. By following these guidelines and providing support, you can help your beloved canine companion navigate fireworks night with less fear and anxiety, ensuring a happier and healthier dog.