Dogs and Fireworks
For many, fireworks are a highlight, bringing people together in celebration. But for dogs, the sudden noise and bright lights can be incredibly distressing. They don't understand the source of these sounds, making it a stressful event rather than a joyful one.
This blog looks at the topic of dogs and fireworks; why dogs get nervous and offers tips to alleviate their distress during firework season.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
Dogs have an acute sense of hearing, much more sensitive than our own. The unpredictable and deafening sounds of fireworks can be overwhelming. Moreover, the sudden flashes of light and even the smell of fireworks can add to their anxiety. In the wild, loud noises are often associated with danger, so a dog's natural instinct might be to become alert or even try to escape from the perceived threat.
Signs of Distress
Before we delve into alleviating anxiety, it's essential to recognise the signs of distress in your dog during fireworks:
- Whining or barking: vocalising their discomfort.
- Pacing or restlessness: an inability to settle down.
- Hiding or cowering: seeking shelter, often in small spaces.
- Trembling or shaking: physical manifestation of their fear.
- Excessive drooling: another symptom of nervousness.
- Attempting to escape: some dogs might try to run away from the noise.
Tips to Alleviate Anxiety from Fireworks
Create a Safe Space: Designate a quiet, insulated area in your home where your dog can retreat. This could be a room with windows and doors closed to muffle the sound. Introducing comforting items like their favourite toys, blankets, or a piece of your clothing can also help soothe them. Do not confine your dog to one room, as this may increase their anxiety.
Distraction: Play some soft music or turn on the television to counteract the noise of the fireworks. Engaging them in a game or offering a chew toy can also serve as a good distraction.
Desensitisation: Before the firework season, you can play recorded firework noises at a low volume, gradually increasing the sound level over several days. This can help desensitise your dog to the noise. There are several apps and online resources dedicated to this.
Comfort Them: Contrary to some beliefs, comforting your dog when they're scared will not reinforce their fears. Instead, it can help them feel safer. Gentle petting, talking in a soothing voice, or even holding them (if they're used to it) can provide immense relief.
Try Calming Aids: There are several products available, like calming sprays, collars, and diffusers, that release dog-friendly pheromones to help reduce anxiety. There are also specific dog treats available that are formulated to relax your pet.
Seek Professional Advice: If your dog's fear is particularly severe, consider seeking advice from a vet or professional dog trainer. They might offer techniques tailored to your dog or even recommend medications for extreme cases.
Stay Indoors: If possible, try to walk your dog before the fireworks start so they can remain indoors during the event. This reduces the direct exposure to the sights and sounds of the fireworks.
Update Identification: Ensure your dog's identification is updated. If they become scared and run away, having a current ID tag can increase the chances of a happy reunion.
Recognising a dog's anxiety towards fireworks allows us to better support them. By combining patience, care, and effective methods, we can guide our pets through the challenges fireworks present. It's crucial to remember that each dog is different; discovering the right mix of strategies tailored to your dog is key.