How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks
Our top dogs and fireworks tips
Fireworks are a fun and popular spectacle around the world, especially at major annual celebrations like New Year’s Eve.
Even if attending a fireworks event isn’t your thing, it can often be impossible to completely avoid the lights and sounds of fireworks - especially if you have neighbors who love to hold their own private displays.
Many pet owners will know that hearing the sounds of fireworks (and perhaps even witnessing the flashes of light they cause) can seriously affect their dog or cat’s wellbeing.
That’s why it’s really important to make sure that you are prepared, especially at times of the year where fireworks displays are likely to be commonplace, so that you can give your furry friend all the support they need.
Read on to find out why dogs are often scared of fireworks, how to spot the signs and what to do about it.
Why are dogs afraid of fireworks?
In order to give our pets all the support they need, we first need to understand their perspective. So why do dogs get scared of fireworks?
The simple answer is, for the same reason that many humans (especially children) do. They are noisy, unpredictable, and confusing.
For dogs, fireworks cause very loud sounds that are - from their perspective anyway - completely unexpected and unexplained.
It’s important to remember that dogs have a much better sense of hearing than we do. They can both hear sounds on frequencies that we can’t, and hear sounds from much further away. That means that the loud noises caused by fireworks are even more abrasive to their ears.
Not being able to locate the source of the sounds they are hearing can also be very disturbing for them. Many dogs’ natural reaction will be to initiate a fight-or-flight response as they will assume they are in danger. Since they can’t ‘fight’ the fireworks, they will try to run away and hide instead.
Dogs also have a significantly better sense of smell than humans, and may also be affected by the smell of fireworks. Anyone who’s ever attended a display will know that a lot of strong-smelling smoke can be left behind, and this odor can also be confusing for animals.
Why is my dog scared of fireworks, but others aren’t?
It’s estimated that almost half of pet dogs
experience a strong reaction towards fireworks that indicates fear, though other research suggests the proportion is much higher.
There is no way of knowing in advance if your dog will be scared of fireworks or not, as they are all different. However, it is more likely that your pet will feel fear if they tend to be fearful and wary of new experiences in general.
Your dog’s breed may also be a factor. Some breeds are more alert to unfamiliar sights and sounds, and more wired to detect danger.
Scientists in Finland conducted a survey of almost 14,000 dog owners and found some interesting insights into which dogs may be more likely to fear fireworks.
Their research indicated that neutered animals tend to be more fearful, as are younger dogs that did not socialize much with other dogs as puppies.
They concluded that the following breeds were more likely to scare easily: Cairn Terrier, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Lagotto Romagnolo, Rough Collie, and mixed breed dogs.
Animals statistically least bothered by loud noises were Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Miniature Poodles, and Chinese Crested dogs.
Another element to consider when determining if your dog is likely to be fearful of fireworks is whether or not they experienced any traumatic event(s) related to loud noises when they were younger.
My dog is scared of fireworks - what can I do?
Okay, so let’s say you know for sure (from past painful experiences) that your furry friend really is scared of fireworks.
You’ve probably seen them respond to fireworks displays by barking, shaking, hiding, and generally acting in an agitated manner.
Whilst you can’t cure them of this, there are still plenty of steps you can take to help keep them as calm as possible until the fireworks have stopped.
How to calm a dog during fireworks
1. Do your research
Ahead of fireworks season, make sure you do your best to find out when and where local fireworks displays will be. This is especially important if you suspect they may be close to your home. Ask neighbors and check the dates of local public events.
2. Create a safe space
Arrange for an area of your home to be a safe space that your dog can stay in when they are feeling worried or frightened. This can include familiar sights and sounds that they will find comforting, such as their bed, favorite toys, and so on.
Encourage your dog to enjoy that space by leaving treats or new toys there for them to enjoy. It’s important not to interact too much with your pet whilst they are there, and keep it free of invasions by other pets and young children. This is so that your dog knows it is their personal safe space.
3. Avoid, avoid, avoid
As far as possible, only take them outside when it is light, so that you can be sure that fireworks are unlikely to be suddenly set off.
Close the curtains in your home, play fairly loud but calming music to muffle the noise, and ensure all windows are closed.
It can also be helpful to turn the TV on (instead of playing music) as this will be a distraction that your dog is familiar with.
4. Ignorance is key!
Another helpful way to support your dog is by completely ignoring the noise yourself. Don’t respond in either a negative or positive way. If members of the family want to watch at the window, ask them to do this in another room so your dog isn’t aware.
Simply reassure your dog regularly with physical affection and praise. Distract them by playing games with them. Speak to them in a calm voice so that they know there is no cause for alarm.
5. Don’t fight it
The middle of a loud fireworks display is not the time to take your dog for a walk in the hope of ‘curing’ them of their fears. This is likely to be quite a traumatic experience for them.
Allow your dog to respond in a way that feels natural for them. For example, if they want to hide under the table, let them do so. You can gently acknowledge them and try all the other tips listed here, but don’t feel that you need to get them to ‘break the habit’.
There is a chance that even this small exposure to fireworks will help them to feel less afraid in the future. Whether it does or not, don’t feel under pressure to ‘fix’ them - especially if your dog is clearly terrified.
6. Stock up on supplements
If your dog is only occasionally fearful, you may understandably be unwilling to consider medical intervention in the form of medication.
That’s why we suggest a herbal calming treat, such as DakPets Dog Calming Treats. Made with human-grade organic hemp, chamomile, valerian root, and ginger, these tasty chews are packed with natural anxiety-reducing ingredients.
They also feature a delicious duck flavor that makes them irresistible to dogs!
You can purchase yours here.
We hope this quick guide to dogs and fireworks helps you support your pet during fireworks season. You may also be interested in How to Calm Down a Dog with Anxiety.
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