What to do if your dog is scared of Fireworks

Scared dog

Most dogs worry about where loud bangs and fizzes come from.  We are fortunate because Otto has never minded fireworks night.  Having said that, the fireworks displays around us seem to be going on for longer, getting later at night, and happen over a number of days.  Add to that the increased use of fireworks at weddings and New Years Eve celebrations and it is no longer a problem for one night of the year.

A dog's instinct is to escape when they sense danger so it is important to keep a close eye on them and ensure the house and garden is secure, even if they have never run away before.  Make sure your dog's microchip information is up to date.  Make sure your dog is wearing its collar and ID tag just in case.

How can I prepare for fireworks?

Keep your curtains closed, and lights on.  Leave on the TV or radio to mask outside noises where possible.  Some companies make calming plug-ins to help relax your dog.  Be sure your dog has somewhere safe to hide/retreat to.
If you see you dog's anxiety levels increasing, reach out to a behaviourist or force-free trainer ahead of next year.

You can try to desensitise your dog to the noises and lessen the impact when fireworks are let off.  You can download apps or steam videos that aim to gently get a dog used to certain sounds over time with the aim of reducing the fear caused.  Be led by your dog's behaviour - you don't want to make them worse and some may not be keen on this.  If your dog has a real noise phobia please consult a qualified behaviourist before beginning any desensitisation process.

All dogs need a safe space to retreat to, particularly at times when they are afraid.  Be sure to allow them access to their safe space whether it be a bed, covered crate, under furniture etc and fill it with their favourite blankets and toys.  They may feel equally as safe in the company of another dog or in your arms.

Consider adjusting your walking routine if you anticipate fireworks.  Take them for a nice long walk during the day and play with them in the evening.

Try to ensure they take a toilet break before the fireworks start.  They may be too scared to go in the garden later at night so if they have a little accident in the house don't shout or scold.  This is not bad behaviour, it's a reaction to fear.  Clean up and continue calmly.

My dog barks at fireworks - can I do anything to calm him down?

If your dog barks at the fireworks try to redirect them to a calming activity.  Licking and sniffing will work best so perhaps buy a snuffle mat or lick-mat ahead of time.

Be sure to keep your dog's water bowl full as anxious dogs may drink more than normal.

Don't leave dogs on their own on fireworks night - they will need you for reassurance if they do get themselves a bit worked up.  Try to keep everything as normal as possible.

Distract, comfort or ignore?

We say comfort but only if your dog enjoys that.  Allow them to walk away if they prefer their own space.  Distract them with games and puzzle feeders only if they are interested.  Never ignore them when they want you!

What can I do to make my dog feel better?

Remain as calm as possible - your pets look to your for guidance so if you can give the impression that nothing is wrong it will help.  They will pick up if you are stressed and constantly checking them. 

Tell children to leave scared dogs alone unless they come to them for reassurance.  They may show behaviour that is out of character so explain to children that they should not coax a dog out from it's safe place. 

Problems tend to occur because of dogs hurting themselves in an attempt to escape but in the rare event of extreme stress in sick or older dogs please call your vet if you are worried. 

We hope these tips help to keep your dog safe and happy during this firework season!