The Happy Dog Project

Firework Fears

By October 22, 2019 No Comments

Well, bonfire night is nearly upon is – hopefully you have already been working hard this year to get your dog ready for all the loud bangs, whizzes and whoosh noises that are about to fill our skies. 

No? For those of you who didn’t do it and that day will soon be here again:

Remember – It’s normal if your dog gets scared. We know to expect fireworks  – but your dog doesn’t!! – it all comes as a nasty surprise.

Your dog has keen senses that make fireworks a more intense experience. Your dog’s acute hearing makes him more sensitive to the sounds of fireworks than you are. Don’t forget Fireworks also produce a smell that dogs may be sensitive to – they have up to 350 million scent receptors in their noses in comparison to our feeble 5 million!

During fireworks, your dog experiences the same kind of startle response you do when you’re surprised by a loud noise. This may mean an increase in heart rate, a rush of adrenaline, and an increase in stress hormones.

It’s not the same as a thunderstorm! Thunderstorms come with a lot of warning signs, like changes in barometric pressure and high winds, so dogs can anticipate them. Fireworks are sudden and don’t happen often enough for your dog to get used to them naturally

If you start early you can help lower your dog’s sensitivity to the sound of fireworks – if you haven’t then get started for next year!!.

You can help prepare your dog by exposing him to recorded firework sounds. It can take months of practice gradually increasing the volume while you have fun with your dog, do some fun training, teach tricks, feed him so he associates the sounds with fun and rewards.

You can also throw some music in the mix – Reggae is, according to the latest research the most calming music to play.
Play a fireworks soundtrack super quietly while the music is playing and gradually increase the firework volume and decrease the music volume while playing with your dog. Play that music on bonfire night

Remember though this only gets your dog used to the sound – fireworks come with flashing lights and a lot of smell too.

Go to: https://soundcloud.com/dogstrust/sets/sound-therapy-sounds-scary

Or just ask Alexa to play firework sounds!

If your dog may be worried – prepare!!

Create an area at home where your dog can feel safe and secure during the noise but to it in advance. If your dog is crate trained and his crate is a happy place then he may feel most secure in there with a nice chew toy to occupy him and maybe a blanket over it. If she’s not crate-trained, create a safe place like a den where she can hide – a blanket over some chairs or putting her bed in a quiet place during the fireworks may help. Adding some calming smells like lavender, Pet Remedy or Adaptil can help.

Calming wraps and thundershirts may help for some dogs:. They work like swaddling does for babies – they make your dog feel secure during stressful situations. There are loads of other anti anxiety options so get in touch if you have an anxious dog.

Potions: Herbal calming tablets and alternatives like Adaptil, Pet Remedy, Lavender, Chamomile or Valerian amongst others. There are also dog treats specially formulated to help with calmness. If you are local then Steph’s Pet Pantry https://www.stefspetpantry.com are stocked up ready for firework season. www.facebook.com/stefspetpantry

What to do if your dog is frightened of fireworks

Stay calm!  Making a big fuss only only makes him think there is a reason to panic,, they look at us for reassurance so showing them that we are calm and relaxed is likely to help your dog as emotions are hugely contagious. Although it’s difficult when it’s obvious your pet is stressed, try not to let your dog know you are worried as it may make the problem worse. Stay calm, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour. It’s okay to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide under your bed, then let them.

Dogs show they are stressed or anxious in lots of ways, including panting excessively, drooling, licking their lips, yawning, ears back, shaking, putting their tail between their legs.

Let your dog walk around and find a place to hide if that’s what they want to do. Once they have found a safe space try not to disturb them or get them to move somewhere else. Dogs may prefer like to hide in a den type area where they can feel safe and comfortable when loud noises are all around. This could be under your bed or behind the sofa.

It goes without saying that you should never shout at your pet for reacting, barking, running around the house. Being shouted at for being frightened is not nice – you wouldn’t like it. If you have to leave your house during fireworks and come home to find your dog has been destructive or toileted, don’t get angry with him. Reprimanding them won’t help and will also make your dog more anxious.

And don’t forget …

  • Feed your dog a while before you expect any disturbances, as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
  • Walk your dog before dusk. It may be some time before it’s safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve himself. Keep your dog on-lead if you think fireworks will be let off.
  • Shut your dog safely inside a room before opening the front door – lots of dogs panic and escape on bonfire night so keep your four legged friend safe. If there is any chance your dog can get out of your garden then keep them on a lead in the garden in case they panic and bolt.
  • Switching the TV or radio on might help to muffle the sound, but make sure it’s not too loud and don’t try this if your dog isn’t used to noises from the television.
  • Close the curtains to block out flashing lights from outside.
  • Dogs are likely to drink more when they are worried, so fill their water bowl up to the brim.

Make sure your dog is microchipped, has a tag on their collar and your information is up to date so your dog can be returned to you if they are spooked by fireworks and run off. By law your dog should be wearing an ID tag with the owner’s name and address displayed when they are in a public place anyway!. If your phone number is easily readable you will have a better chance of being reunited quickly.

Obviously don’t be a numpty and tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off, ie outside a shop while you pop inside, or leave him in the garden or alone in the car.

It’s never a good idea to take your dog to a fireworks display, and indoor fireworks aren’t dog-friendly either. Even if they don’t whimper at the noise, it doesn’t mean they are happy.

My dog is terrified – I’m dreading fireworks season 

If you know your pet hates loud, high pitched or sudden noises, it’s likely they will struggle to cope with the firework season.

Speak to your vet well in advance as they may be able prescribe calming medication that might help your dog if they really struggle over the period.

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