Dogs and anxiety with fireworks
Fireworks, the amazing shows that take place on the lead up to bonfire night and New Years eve; exciting for us, however perhaps not so much for our dogs. The loud bangs and flashescan cause confusion and fear in dogs, being very stressful for just under half of all dogs in the UK. During the firework period we aim to put our pets’ safety first, providing as much care as we possibly can.
What causes the fear of fireworks in dogs?
Fear of fireworks comes primarily from the loud bangs and flashes. They can afterwards alsocome to associate the smell with their anxiety. Of course to a dog they would not be aware of why fireworks are going off, or even what they are. Therefore by having their senses challenged by this new experience they feel fear by detecting danger. The sheer volume of the fireworks may be too loud for you dog, as a dog’s hearing is more acute than ours, so something that may not be too loud for us are extra loud for dogs.
How to prepare your dogs for fireworks
In the lead up to an expected firework event, it is possible to desensitise a dog to the loud noises. There are downloadable noises and sounds that can give your dog some exposure to the sounds, which can build familiarity with the firework noises and reduces the fear as they sense no danger. This can not only help with fireworks but also other noises that they may deem frightening and unsettling. It does take some time to desensitise a dog and may be a good option for next year’s Bonfire Night, or this year’s New Years Eve fireworks. Please always take into consideration the personality and nature of your pet before trying to do this, as some pets may have more fear rather than less. If this is the case there are specialists in dog behaviour that may be able to help your pet with their fear.
What do I do if a firework display is about to start?
If a firework display is about to begin there are a few things you can do to provide some
comfort to your dog. Close all doors, windows and gates to prevent your dog from escaping if frightened and trying get away from the noise. Closing curtains may also prevent them from seeing any flashes from the fireworks that may startle them even further. Create a safe space for your dog, such as under the stairs. Perhaps your dog has an area it feels most comfortable which could be filled with a few treats and belongings to distract your dog whilst the fireworks are happening and ensure that you are near this space for extra comfort if possible. Frightened dogs may lose their appetite once fireworks begin to scare them, so feeding them beforehand ensures that your does not go hungry. The water bowl should also remain full throughout the scare, as dogs may become thirsty when stressed. Remain calm yourself as your dog may become more frightened if you seem distressed also. Stay relaxed and support them as for some dogs it may be their first firework experience. Ensure your dogs collar, with contact details attached, is on securely in case of an escape, and ensure that that their microchip, has the correct details on the database so if the dog escapes and is found, it can be returned safely.
What do I do whilst the fireworks are taking place?
Distractions, distractions and even more distractions.
Noise from inside your housesuch as a radio, people speaking or a TV keeps your dog’s attention inside the house which can lower the amount of attention that is taken from the fireworks. Good behaviour, or calm behaviour can be rewarded. This type of conditioning informs your dog that remaining calm is a good thing to do in a fireworks event, and
they are more likely to repeat this behaviour in future.
If you need to exit the house, ensure the dog is in a room away from the door and it is secure enough to hold them throughout the firework display. Allow your dog to hide or retreat to an area they feel more comfortable in.
There are several ways to calm dogs during the firework period from Adaptil plugins, over-the-counter calming tablets such as Nutracalm, and more potent Prescription
Only Medicines like Xanax and Diazepam. These latter medicines are only available after discussing with a vet as to whether they are safe for your individual dog and are likely help your dog with its anxiety. Please contact us to find out more information.
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