Fireworks can be scary for people, so imagine how dogs feel with the sounds which are so much louder with their incredible ears. Firework fears are very common in dogs.
Signs to look out for sound sensitivities or fears during loud noises like fireworks include:
■ Trembling and shaking
■ Clinging to owners
■ Whining or barking excessively
■ Cowering & hiding
■ Trying to run away
■ Soiling inside the house
■ Pacing and panting
■ Refusing to eat
■ Ears back
What to do:
-Dogs enjoy a calming area to go as a ‘safe place’, just like their own den in the wild. If they go there you don’t have to follow or give them attention, just leave cosy blankets, bedding and a favourite toy and give them space, a crate is ideal for this!
-If your dog will accept food or toys during these loud times, then leave a kong or food puzzle to keep them occupied. Try to reduce the impact on your dog by keeping them inside with all the curtains, windows, doors closed and turn on the TV/radio to mask the sound.
-If you know the fireworks are coming, walk your dog early in the light and avoid having them outside, even in your garden during the events.
-Make sure your dog’s microchip is up to date in case they get scared and run out of fear.
-Be caring if your dog comes to you for support, offer genuine affection without being too sympathetic. Keep the mood light without too much concern that may transfer you are worried too. As soon as your dog has calmed a little, try to distract them into a game with a toy or into using their nose to find a treat. However it is best to keep your distance from a dog that is hiding or cowering away behind furniture or in their safe haven den – they are there to get away and be alone.
-Don’t leave your dog alone, just knowing you are there and your presence will be reassuring to them.
-Do NOT punish your dog, even if they make a mistake, this will increase their worries! The best thing to help your dog with loud sounds and fireworks, is to carry out a desensitisation programme you want to do this early, as a puppy or at least 6 months before the fireworks season. Even though habituation and training to get used to sounds is best done with dogs when they are puppies you can still help when they are older.
Use the ‘Sounds scary’ free download resource from The Dogs Trust UK.
Please consult your veterinarian if your dog has severe signs or really affected by fireworks, or local accredited behaviourist for help and advice.