My dog is scared of fireworks - What can I do to help?
Some dogs aren’t the slightest bit bothered by the sight and sound of fireworks. For many others, it’s a very frightening experience – and it means occasions like Bonfire Night on November 5 can be highly stressful for dogs and owners alike.
To make matters worse, these days firework displays don’t just take place on one day – they can be spread across a period of about a week. The effects of this can really impact your training – and a stressed out and frightened dog is an unhappy dog.
Some dogs are even known to run away from home (if they can escape) out of fear caused by fireworks. The good news is there are steps you can take to minimise the stress caused to your dog. Here are our top tips:
1. Go for an early walk
Now the darker nights have set in, many of us will be opting for earlier walks than usual and this can be a particularly good idea around Bonfire Night. It’s important that dogs are indoors where they are safe and secure before any fireworks start. If you do walk in the dark on Bonfire Night, it's a good idea to keep your dog on a lead.
Make sure your dog has their ID tag on and their microchip details are up-to-date so you can be reunited if they escape.
2. Act normal
Your dog will react to your body language – and if you seem worried, it will make them feel worse. If your dog comes to you seeking comfort or reassurance then you should absolutely provide it – but be aware that approaching your dog for excessive cuddling and comforting can make your them feel that there is even more reason to be scared. It’s best to stay calm, behave as normally as possible and follow your dog’s lead.
Play is a good way to help your dog burn off nervous energy and redirect their attention. Reaching for your dog’s favourite tug can both provide distraction and help them form positive associations with the noise.
3. Use distraction techniques
Close the curtains or blinds to limit the flashes and explosions and reduce the stimulation your dog is exposed to. Keep the TV or radio on in the background to drown out some of the noise and provide a sense of normality.
The Clam is a brilliant toy for helping to keep your dog distracted whilst building positive associations to the bangs on fireworks night. Pop a calming dog treat inside and play a game of fetch and retrieve (with extra treats).
You can also create a noise box ahead of fireworks night to help your dog. Fill a cardboard box with noisy materials like crumpled paper, bottles filled with pebbles and pop the clam in filled with treats. This activity can help your dog grow in confidence.
4. Provide a den
You might find your dog will want to hide away under a bed or in a crate with a blanket draped over the top. This will help them feel secure and you shouldn’t try to coax them out before they are ready.
You can try setting up a cosy area in the quietest area of the house, do this before fireworks night so your dog has time to get used to it.
5. Create positive associations
Helping your dog overcome their fear of loud noises like fireworks is something that takes time. Think about putting a long-term plan in place to gradually introduce loud noises to your dog in a way that builds their confidence. Noises should be introduced slowly and initially at a very low volume, and tolerating them should be matched with a calming reward.
You won’t see instant results but if you put the effort in you should notice a big difference by the time Bonfire Night comes round.