Fireworks and Your Dogs Anxiety
Here at T Forrest & Sons, our team like many around the country are looking forward with excitement to the prospect of a fun packed family bonfire night. Although in the weeks leading up to the 5th of November it can be a very distressing time for many dogs, due to the loud bangs and flashes that come with the lighting of fireworks.
The safety of your canine companion can be put in jeopardy due to their volatile behaviour which is brought about by stress. This stress is caused by the extreme noises and bright flares and flashes which can be very alarming to them. This guide will help you to calm your dog during the firework season.
It is a little known fact that almost half of all dogs in the UK are frightened of pyrotechnics and all dog owners should plan for this annual event well in advance. Correct planning and care can significantly reduce the stress and potential harm that your dog can face.
What You Can Do
Ensuring you start your preparation well in advance is key, exposing him/her to loud noises in a controlled environment can have huge benefits. There are a vast number of compact discs on the market and streaming sites which give you the ability to expose your dog to loud, strange noises in a “safe place” like home. You can start by playing the sounds very quietly and over a few weeks increase the noise level every day.
It is important to note at this point that if your dog is in the severe anxiety bracket (about 10%) then this build up training can have the opposite effect and could make matters worse. In this case we would advise that you seek the advice of a dog therapist or a vet. The kennel club have qualified and experienced tutors who have expertise in canine behaviour.
Things To Do
Have a good look around social media/local papers and notice boards and make a diary note of all local firework displays. Ask around your community to find out if any other low-level displays are planned.
Build Up Preparations
- Ensure your dog has his/her evening meal early as stress/anxiety often reduces their appetite.
- Take your dog out for a long and active walk well before it gets dark and make sure they do their business as it may be some time before your dog feels comfortable to go out again. If it becomes essential that you let your dog out in the garden to go to the toilet then be sure that there are no ways out as they might get spooked by a firework while outside.
- Make sure water is available (fill water bowl) and anxiety causes a dog to pant more which in turn makes them thirsty.
- Do everything to prevent exposure to sight and sound like closing all doors and windows and drawing all curtains.
- If you have a cat flap/door ensure it is locked and inactive so there is no means of accidental escape.
- Ensure a safe zone is created, placing dog beds/blankets and even unwashed clothing in a pile with their favourite play toy can provide a calming effect.
During the fireworks
- Always try to act and behave normally (jovial and cheerful) as dogs are extremely intuitive and if you are stressed and jumpy they will pick up the signals.
- The key is to ensure your dog is rewarded with cuddles and dog treats and playtime just for being calm.
- Having the TV or music on can create a good distraction, just loud enough to dampen out the bangs caused by fireworks.
- Some dogs choose to scamper under the bed or hide behind the sofa which is fine if that’s what they want to do, don’t force them out as this will raise their anxiety levels. Don’t shout at them to come out. If they come to you make sure you give them plenty of fuss as snubbing them now could be very confusing.
- NEVER force your dog to confront loud noises – this can have the opposite effect and make them worse.
- NEVER discipline your dog when he/she is in an anxious/agitated state as this will only increase their stress level. It is totally normal for a dog to be afraid of loud bangs.
- NEVER take your dog to a bonfire/firework event. Just because your doglooks calm does not guarantee that they are not stressed, and they could make a bolt for it and cause injury to themselves. If you notice disproportionate (excessive) panting or yawning, then this indicates increased stress level.
- NEVER secure your dog to a post or fence outside while you pop into the shop while fireworks are possible.
If All Fails
Seek the advice/consult with your vet, if you are considering medication or natural remedies again seek advice from a vet or a canine behavioural therapist.
There are group training sessions available which we would thoroughly recommend so look around now as these events do fill up quickly.
We sincerely wish you and your fury friend a calm, peaceful and most importantly a safe fireworks experience.