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February 2024

Dogs and Fireworks: Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe

Behaviour & TrainingCare

Fireworks are a celebration staple, an exciting display that mark important dates like Guy Fawkes Night, New Year’s Eve, and Lunar New Year. But while they’re fun for us, many dogs are afraid of fireworks. Here are some top tips to keep your dog safe during firework displays.

Why Are Dogs Scared Of Fireworks?

1. It’s about Volume

It’s important to remember that dogs have better hearing than we do – and therefore their ears are more sensitive. Just think – if they can come running from the other end of the house because they’ve heard you open the fridge or pick up your car keys, how sensitive must they then be to loud, explosive noises? They also hear sound at a higher frequency than we do and from much greater distances too – so even if the fireworks sound muffled to you, it’s much louder for your dog.

2. It’s about Surprise

Your dog doesn’t know it’s Guy Fawkes Night or New Year’s Eve…to them, fireworks are an unexpected and random set of explosions. Because fireworks don’t follow a pattern and go off at arbitrary intervals, your dog cannot get used to them and perceives them as a threat.

3. It’s about Fight or Flight

Once your dog perceives a threat, it triggers their fight-or-flight response – this is why some dogs attempt to run away when they hear firecrackers.

Is My Dog Afraid of Fireworks?

Dogs are expressive animals – and you can usually tell how they’re feeling by observing their physical cues. There are several things to look out for to determine if your dog has a fear of fireworks.

Signs Your Dog is Afraid of Fireworks

Changes in their eyes – they may open their eyes wider so you can see more of the whites of their eyes, or their pupils may be dilated.

  • Ears back
  • Shaking
  • Excessive scratching
  • Barking, whining, or howling
  • Excessive lip licking or hypersalivation
  • Hiding or cowering – or alternatively being extra needy and following you.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Attempting to escape

If your dog exhibits these signs during fireworks, they likely have a phobia of firecrackers which you will need to manage. The strategies for this include setting up a safe space for your dog, preparing for the event on the day, and keeping them company on the evening.

How to Create a Safe Space for Dogs

It’s a good idea to set up a doggy den – which is a safe space in your home which your dog can retreat to for comfort. It’s easy to put together, and you can do it with items you already have!

Hot Tip

Even if you have a dog who’s used to living outside, it’s essential to bring them inside when fireworks are expected as this greatly reduces the risk of them escaping.

1. Choose a Location

Find a place in an easily accessible room that they use regularly. It could be under a desk, in a cupboard, or in a space they like to lounge it. Make sure you choose a spot that isn’t close to windows and use a room where you can close the doors to make it secure.

2. Make it Comfortable

You can use their bed or layer the space with blankets or pillows to make it cosy. If they have a favourite toy this is something you can put in the space. The area shouldn’t be too large – as small spaces help them feel secure.

3. Show Them Their New Space

Introduce them to the space you’ve set up well prior to the fireworks starting. Establish it as a positive place by giving them treats when they enter it, and practice getting them to enter the space for a reward or treat. Do not force them to stay in the space – it’s for their own benefit if they need it so you want to establish a positive association with it.

Hot Tip

Your pup may skulk off to this space once the fireworks start – let them do this and don’t force them out of it. Dogs are den animals, and they’ll often seek out small spaces if they feel threatened.

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How To Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks

Fears of fireworks in pets can be managed – but it takes time and forward planning.

Well Ahead

  1. Make sure your house and garden are secure and escape proof – if there are any parts of your fence that need fixing, or any areas of concern make sure this is fixed before the night of the fireworks.
  2. Make sure you dog’s ID tags and microchip are up to date – dogs that are afraid of fireworks pose a greater risk of running away on the night and you need to be prepared should this happen. Make sure they’re wearing their collar on the night!
  3. Depending on the level of your dog’s fear, you could try to desensitise them to fireworks by having practice sessions where you play a recording of the noise for short periods – gradually increasing the volume and length of time you play as your dog becomes less reactive to it.
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On the Day

1. Tire Them Out

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so they’re not full of nervous energy by the evening. Take them for their regular walk in the morning, and then in the afternoon take them somewhere where they can get a good run around and burn off some steam or consider a doggy playdate – just make sure your dog is back home and inside well before fireworks start.

2. Adapt Your Routine

Feed them well before fireworks are due to start and take them out to the bathroom early so you can keep them inside later in the evening. A tired, well-fed dog that doesn’t need to go outside will be in a better position to stay calm in the evening.

3. Organise a Sitter

Ideally, you’ll be staying with your dog to calm them but if this isn’t possible arrange for them to have a sitter or stay with a friend who can keep the calm during the evening’s proceedings.

4. Be Prepared with Toys, Treats and Tools

It’s a good idea to have new toys or a new bone which can serve to distract your pet once the fireworks start.

You can also invest in calming products to help soothe your dog – we recommend a thundershirt which is an anti-anxiety wrap around that feels like a hug to your dog. You can try calming treats and chews as well – get creative and lather some calming peanut butter in a Kong or place calming treats in a dog puzzle. The more your dog’s attention is elsewhere, the less they’ll be focused on their fear.

On the Night

1. Curtains Closed

Bring your dog inside well before fireworks start and keep them in for the evening. Close your windows and draw your curtains and blinds to block out noise and flashes. It’s also a good idea to turn all your lights on to mask sudden changes in light.

2. White Noise

It’s a good idea to have some background noise to muffle the sound of the fireworks. You can put on your TV, play music or even put on a white noise playlist.

3. Wrap Them Up

Use an anti-anxiety blanket to make them feel safe. They apply gentle, constant pressure to your dog which has a calming affect on them and reduces anxiety and fear. Find them here.

4. Keep Them Busy

Provide them with enrichment toys to keep their mind off the noise. You can even use calming treats and chews and place them in puzzle toys to keep your dog occupied.

5. Give Them Space

If your dog is trying to skulk off and hide, let them. Check on them often, but don’t force them to be in a wide-open space as they may feel more comfortable and secure in a hiding spot. You can also pre-empt this behaviour by providing a safe space for your dog to retreat to. Read more on this below.

6. Comfort and Cuddle

Dogs are very perceptive to how you’re feeling, and they pick up on visual cues – so remain calm and act as though there is nothing wrong. This can be difficult when your dog is acting anxious, but you must remain calm as they will pick up on your nervous energy if you don’t. If your dog is a cuddler, keep them close and give them reassurance if they seek it.

Hot Tip

When patting your dog to soothe them use long, slow strokes that frame the full length of their body. Speak to them softly, using a calm and even tone. Do not pat them frantically or speak in a loud or high-pitched voice as this will likely rile them up more.

7. Consider Medication

If your dog’s phobia is severe, talk to your vet about options for mild sedation. For less severe cases, you can use natural calming remedies which are available over the counter at Petstock. Prevention is better than cure, so give these to your pet prior to the fireworks starting if they’ve previously been unnerved by fireworks.

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FAQS For Dogs And Fireworks

Should I cuddle my dog during fireworks?

Absolutely! Cuddling a dog when they’re afraid helps reduce their stress, and it also teaches them that coming to you is a coping strategy for dealing with discomfort. It’s important you only do this if the dog is seeking it out – don’t force cuddles on a dog that’s attempting to separate itself as a coping mechanism.

Are some breeds more likely to fear fireworks than others?

Research suggests that some breeds are more likely to react to fireworks than others – but any dog can react fearfully to fireworks and breed isn’t an overriding factor. If you’re unsure how your dog will react to fireworks and they’ve never had exposure to them, it’s a good idea to have someone with them when you expect fireworks to monitor their reaction and offer support if they need it.

Do fireworks hurt my dog’s ears?

It’s not the volume of the fireworks that is of concern – but of your dog’s psychological response to them. Fireworks put your dog in a heightened emotional state, and it can trigger a trauma response. Therefore, it’s important for you to be with your dog to alleviate their stress symptoms.

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