Bonfire Night and Diwali mark the start of a season of wonderful celebrations, which increasingly feature fireworks- because we love them! However, our dogs don't share the same love of loud bangs, noises and flashes. Fireworks can be both frightening and stressful for them. It's estimated over 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks.
With so many new puppy and dog paw-rents about to experience this for the first time, here's a useful quick guide on how to identify the signs of fear in dogs and what you can do to help comfort them and keep them safe during fireworks season.
Why do fireworks scare our dogs?
Dogs aren't used to loud bangs, flashing lights or the strong smells from fireworks. They don't understand what these strange sounds, sights and smells are, or what they are coming from. They feel out of control and confusion can quickly turn to fright, even terror,
A dog's reaction to loud noises such as fireworks is really determined by their breed, age, sex, personality and any past experiences. If they've been scared once before, they'll probably be scared every time.
The best advice is to prepare your dog in advance, so they can cope a little better when the sounds of any celebrations start.
How to prepare your dog:
- Take them for a good, long walk during the day
- Keep all windows, doors and curtains closed to minimise the sound & flashing lights
- Turn the TV, radio or some music on to cover the sounds of bangs
- Create a comfy space where your dog can feel in control and relaxed
- Create a safe, hiding place for your dog, for example under furniture
It's a good idea to stay inside with your dogs if you are aware of any fireworks or celebrations happening in your area. If you're at home with them, you can help to distract them by playing games and giving them lots of toys, attention, care and love.
If you are particularly concerned about your dog's level of anxiety, you can always speak to your vet who will be able to provide further advice and guidance.
Recognising signs of stress in dogs
It's good to be aware of early signs of stress to help you put in place some early interventions and minimise any destress for them. Some common signs to look out for are:
- Trembling and shaking
- Clinging to their owners
- Excessive barking
- Hiding behind furniture
- Running around
- Toileting in the house
- Pacing and panting
- Refusing to eat
- Destructive behaviour (chewing furniture)
Different dogs cope with fireworks and loud noises in general differently to others. It's always best to follow your dog's lead. The best short-term solution is to provide a safe, familiar, comfortable place for them to hang out and allow them to do what they want. Make sure you always reassure them and give them plenty of distractions through play and attention.
For a longer-term solution, you may want to consider some behavioural training for your dog. This takes time and patience but can make a real, lifelong difference for your dog and for you too. Your vet may also be able to advice on any medical interventions that may be available to help keep your dog calm and ease any symptoms of stress.