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Fireworks are great for celebrating important dates in the year… if you enjoy fireworks!
However, for quite a few people, (especially very young children) and for most animals, fireworks are terrifying. This can be particularly true with regard to your dog.
Why Do Fireworks Frighten Dogs?
By understanding why your dog is frightened by fireworks, you are in a better position to lessen the fear and consequent stress for him or her.
Sudden, loud noises can make us all jump. Usually, we can rationalise the sound and so the fear disappears. However, it is not possible to explain to your dog the reasons for the bangs and flashes that are all part of fireworks and so the fear and anxiety remain. Your dog’s automatic instinct is to get away from the scary sound and flashes of light as quickly as possible.
Because of this it is very important to keep your dog inside, so that he or she is not tempted to run away. It is also important that you stay with your dog to avoid adding separation anxiety to the stress he or she may experience.
How To Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks
So, now that you know that sitting your dog down for a rational explanation of fireworks is probably not going to work, distraction is the way to go! Now is the moment to invest plenty of time in your best friend. Below are some ideas to help you with this.
1. Give Lots Of Love And Attention
Stroking a dog has already been proved to relieve stress and anxiety in care home residents and it works both ways. A gentle voice and lots of strokes will help your dog to relax and distract your dog from the sound of fireworks.
2. Provide Your Dog With A Safe Space
Your dog’s first instinct on hearing firework noises will be to run and hide, under a table (if you are lucky!), or probably somewhere less accessible. After all, most of us have put our head under the duvet in a thunderstorm!
So, the best way to avoid your dog getting stuck somewhere inaccessible is to provide a place where your dog feels safe. If you have an “old boy” or “old girl” who has been with you for many years, he or she will probably already have a place where they feel secure, a basket or crate, for example. For a newer addition, try moving their safe space next to you, so that you can add reassuring words and strokes. Make sure that your dog’s favorite blanket and/or toy is included in the safe spot.
3. Tasty Treats And Toys
Tasty or favorite treats and toys are usually used for training your dog, encouraging the behavior you want and distracting your dog from unwanted behaviour. So, here is another form of distraction!
A special treat can help to take your dog’s attention off the whizzes and bangs. The same applies to playing and having a little bit of fun time with your dog and his or her favorite toy.
4. Leave The TV, Radio or Music On
Your dog has fantastic hearing! Normally, this works in his or her favour, but not when there are fireworks outside. This great sense of hearing only serves to heighten your dog’s anxiety.
However, if there are other background noises, this will help to dampen down the sounds of fireworks. It also provides reassurance, if it is a noise your dog is familiar with, for example ambient noise or classical music! Other sounds are available.
5. Close The Curtains
Closing or drawing the curtains has two benefits. Firstly, it cuts out the flashes of light and secondly, it reduces and muffles the noise from the fireworks. A simple thing for you to do to help your best friend.
6. Exercise Your Dog Beforehand
If it’s a date on the calendar when you expect fireworks, for example, New Year’s Eve, make sure to exercise your dog before anyone lights the blue touch paper.
Choose the appropriate exercise for your dog and something he or she enjoys. It may be an extra long walk for an older dog or charging round after a tennis ball in your back yard with your puppy. Whatever is appropriate will help your dog to relax more easily later in the evening. A sleepy dog or puppy is less likely to get stressed.
7. Anti-Anxiety Medication
If you have tried all the above in the past, with no success, then you will be dreading the next fireworks display for both your dog and yourself. No success does not mean that your dog does not trust you to keep him or her safe, some dogs and puppies are more anxious than others.
There is anti-anxiety medication available for your dog and using it to protect your dog from unwanted stress does not mean you have failed your hound. In fact the opposite, you are considering your dog above your own pride of being the perfect dog or puppy parent.
There are many natural, holistic remedies that work well to calm an over-anxious dog. Before investing in any anti-anxiety medication, see your vet so that he can check your dog is fit and healthy. Anxiety can be brought on by underlying health conditions. Your vet will be able to advise you on what medication is best to help your dog through the stress of fireworks night.
It is thought that a thunderstorm will probably elicit the same reaction as fireworks in your dog or pup. Sudden flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder are very similar to a firework party Once again, unexplainable to your pup or dog. There are CDs of thunderstorms and fireworks that can be played quietly to start with, and then gradually increased in volume, to desensitize your best friend. This will definitely help, if you can both stand listening to the CD until the next celebration with fireworks.
If you have read this far, you have your best friend’s interest at heart. You want to help your pup, “old friend” or multiple hounds avoid the stress of fireworks celebrations. Bravo!!
However, many family pets are so terrified by fireworks, that they run away from their home. Please, please ensure that your dog is “chipped”, it takes a minute with your vet and your dog or puppy will not feel a thing. A collar around your best friend’s neck, with his or her name and your telephone number is so important.
Enjoy the fireworks celebrations a little bit more!