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Fireworks: How Can I Help My Dog Stay Calm?

It’s not unusual for a dog to be frightened when they hear fireworks.  A dog’s hearing is about 4 times more sensitive than humans - and they can detect much quieter sounds than we can - so any flashing lights or sounds like fireworks, even from a distance, can make them very nervous and scare them.

There are a number of signs to watch out for, indicating that your dog is scared:

  • They may start to bark or whine for no apparent reason
  • They might be restless or start panting and pacing around
  • They often try to run away or hide somewhere
  • They may start trembling or shaking
  • Their ears will be flat and they may cower with their tail tucked down between their legs
  • Some dogs may even soil indoors

How can I help my dog stay calm?

If your dog has struggled during previous firework displays and is particularly nervous of any loud noises, you may want to speak to your vet or a qualified behaviorist on how to desensitize your dog to these sounds for the future.

If you haven’t been able to do this in time for this year’s season, there are some steps you can take to help your pooch through the upcoming celebrations.

  1. You can help your puppy learn about lots of different noises to help them get used to sounds and treat them as a normal part of life. As part of their training, take them to areas with different noises, such as traffic noises, and consider using sound recordings to get them used to other noises (such as fireworks, thunderstorms etc).
  2. Create a safe den for them - somewhere they can retreat to when they feel anxious or worried.  This can be a comfy blanket behind a chair or sofa, or in a crate that is covered with a blanket to muffle any sounds.
  3. Put some favorite toys or food puzzles in their den to try and distract them.
  4. Anxiety may cause your dog to drink more, so ensure they have plenty of water close by.
  5. If they have retreated to a specific space on a previous occasion, use this to make their den.  If they are a small breed, this could even be under a cupboard or a bed - somewhere they have chosen and makes them feel safe and comfortable.
  6. Prepare their den well in advance so that they get used to it and know it is a safe place just for them, and give them treats for using it before the firework event.
  7. When they are in their den, leave them alone - don’t try to bring them out.  They will come out of their own accord when they feel safe.
  8. Never force them to use a space at the last minute - it might not be enough protection for them and they may get frustrated if they cannot get to where they want to be.Dog Hiding
  9. Don’t restrict their movement around the house - let them explore and find an area that will make them feel calmer.  If you try to keep them in one area, they may hurt themselves, or others, while trying to get out.
  10. Make sure your pooch has plenty of exercise well in advance of a firework display. Avoid taking your dog out when the fireworks are going off, but should the fireworks start early, make sure to keep them on their leash to avoid them bolting in fright.
  11. Similarly, start feeding them a little earlier so that they get used to a slightly different routine and can settle in advance of the firework display.
  12. Soundproof your house by closing all windows, doors and curtains.
  13. Turn the TV/Radio volume up a little more than normal (not too loud though, as this could scare them too!).  Alternatively, studies have shown that music can be therapeutic for dogs, so tuning into their favorite playlist may help to keep them calm.
  14. Always keep them indoors during the firework display. If they go outside, the noise will be even louder and this will spook them even more. Only let them outside to go to the toilet when you are confident the fireworks are over. If your pooch needs to go outside, make sure that your garden is escape-proof and leave the door open so they can return indoors quickly if they get spooked.
  15. Keep your own reactions to a minimum - they will pick up on your body language and if you show signs that you might also be scared, this will reflect on them.
  16. Never punish them for showing signs of fear, but if they allow it and it’s helpful to them, give them some comfort and sit with them during the display, reassuring them all the time.

Dog fears

Using ADAPTIL can help dogs through stressful situations, like fireworks going off. There are various options:

Remember, always praise and reward your dog if they remain calm during a firework display; this will help by giving them a positive association the next time!

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