How well do you know your dog? You can probably tell when they’re feeling happy, excited, bored - or even just hungry! But how about when something isn’t quite right?
It’s important to be able to recognise what’s wrong; and during fireworks season, you might find your poor pooch is a lot more jumpy than usual! It used to be just a one night a year, it has now become an event that goes on until the new year!
It’s normal and common for your dog to be scared or sensitive around fireworks and unexpected noises. A pooch who’s feeling anxious, nervous or frightened, will often show behaviour such as:
- Clinging to you
- Shaking or trembling
- Keeping their ears pinned back
- Hiding or cowering
- Barking or whining
- Pacing, panting or drooling
- Trying to run away
- Messing inside the house - even when house trained
Nobody likes to see their dog feeling frightened! If you know your dog is scared, have you ever done a questionnaire to find out just how scared your dog really is? Visit this survey by Jon Bowen and Jaume Fatjo (Vet Specialists in behaviour).
Read on for more advice on what can you do to help your dog stay calm around fireworks.
How to Help a Dog Who’s Afraid of Fireworks
1. Build a den for your dog
A comfy, familiar environment is always best if your pooch feels uncertain! Sensitive dogs may enjoy the calm feeling of being able to go somewhere small and dark. Cover a table or crate with blankets, leaving only a small entrance hole so they can go underneath or inside. Put this behind the furniture or under the stairs, or somewhere where your dog would naturally go when afraid. Teach them to use it in advance by encouraging them to go there to rest, fill it with their favourite toys, blankets, bedding and by often putting chews and tasty treats in there for them to find.
Make sure your dog always has access to their own safe haven. If your dog is feeling afraid, never force them out of this space - it’s important that they have a place to escape to.
Try and stay around, leaving your dog home alone will only increase their feelings of unease.
2. Pheromone support
Plug in an ADAPTIL® Calm Home Diffuser which will diffuse a comforting pheromone into the room to promote a feeling of safety that your dog will really appreciate.
3. Block out scary sights and sounds
Unexpected flashes and loud sounds are enough to make anyone jump! With their expert senses, your dog will be able to hear much more than you can, so even if the fireworks don’t seem loud to you, fireworks noises can be much worse for dogs and your dog may still find them scary!
If you can, it helps to mask fireworks noises and flashes by:
- Keeping your dog inside (walk them earlier in the day when it's still light)
- Closing doors, windows and curtains.
- Turn on the radio/tv to mask the noise.
Though it’s a natural instinct to escape, you don’t want your poor pup to be lost and frightened outside! Playing calming music and talking to your dog will also help to take the fear out of fireworks.
4. Create a distraction
There are lots of ways to make fireworks seem less scary; distraction is a great way to stop your pooch from feeling nervous! Try to create a 'happy' atmosphere by being relaxed, playing games, offering treats and avoid getting cross with your dog. It often helps to:
- Speak softly and calmly. Sometimes acting as though nothing is wrong will encourage your dog to relax, so talk in a comforting manner - as if you were training them again. If they respond in an equally calm way, be sure to reward them!
- Give them a food puzzle. If your dog enjoys playing with treat puzzles, that could be just the distraction they need! If they’re not put off of their food, a chew or food-filled toy can be a relaxing, comforting distraction.
- Encourage play. Staying with your dog and playing with them is always a good way to build your bond, and calm them! However be sure not to reward nervous or fearful behaviour - only play with, fuss or treat your pet when they’re acting calmly.
- Tire out your pooch! If you know that a fireworks event is coming up, try to take your dog on a long walk during the day. If you can tire them out by the time the fireworks happen they may be more likely to rest, and have less energy for fearful behaviour.
5. Try sounds training
If your dog is especially sensitive to unexpected sounds, training, desensitisation and sound familiarisation can be a big help. Using a noise soundtrack or sounds CD can help your dog adapt and learn not to be afraid of unfamiliar or surprising noises. When training your pooch:
- Only train during quiet times - when no other unexpected noises or fireworks are happening
- Introduce new sounds very quietly at first, at the lowest volume, and always reward calm reactions
- Slowly increase the noise over time if your dog stays calm
- Always stop if your dog reacts badly. You can always try again another time! When you next try, be sure to go back a step - playing the recording at a much quieter level before building up again.
With repeated training sessions, your furry friend will gradually get used to unfamiliar noises and learn that they don’t always need to be afraid!
6. Ensure they are microchipped and wearing a tag - in case they escape from the house or run off on a walk.
With love, support, and a calm reaction from you, it’s possible to help your dog be less nervous or surprised by fireworks. However, using an ADAPTIL Calm home diffuser can bring a little extra support; creating a comforting environment to ease any fireworks fears.
Watch this testimonial all about Finley and his fear of Fireworks and how ADAPTIL helped:
Be prepared! Are you ready for fireworks? If you know that a fireworks display is coming up, you can also consider ADAPTIL Chews, which can be given to your dog two hours before the start of a fireworks event. ADAPTIL Express is natural ingredients based, and can be given with or without food, to help your pooch feel safe, happy, relaxed and calm.
If your dog’s fear of fireworks is worsening they will need a long-term behaviour modification plan. This should be carried out with the advice and support of a qualified animal behaviourist.