How to calm your dog during fireworks?
An evening of thundering booms and colourful flashes might seem like fun for us humans, but for your dog fireworks can be hugely stressful. Not only is their reaction distressing to witness but it can also lead them into potentially life-threatening situations.
There are things you can do if your dog has a phobia. Speak to your vet about the best way to acclimatise them to the sounds of fireworks, whether they recommend any products or medication that may help to reduce anxiety, and if a referral to an animal behaviourist might be appropriate (although this has to start months in advance to have an impact).
Here are our tips for helping calm your dog during fireworks:
1. Keep your dog indoors
There is a chance your dog could run off if they are spooked by loud bangs and sadly our vets regularly see pets who have been hit by cars as a result of this. During fireworks, make sure they are safely indoors with windows and doors securely closed. Be sure to walk them well in advance of fireworks starting and keep them on a lead.
2. Leave internal doors open
The inescapable booming sounds are distressing enough for your dog without them feeling trapped. Help them feel more in control by keeping internal doors open so they can settle themselves wherever they want.
3. Provide a safe space
Ensure your dog has access to a comforting place they can settle in if they’re distressed, (their usual bed or a quiet spot with some of your old clothes are usually good bets).
4. ‘Soundproof’ your house
Help block out the noise as much as possible, by drawing the curtains, for example.
5. Play background noise
Playing “white noise” such as the TV, radio or other music, in advance of the fireworks starting, can help drown out the noise.
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6. Provide your dog with nutritious treats
Offering tasty, healthy treats while the fireworks are going off may distract and help calm your dog down.
7. Offer praise and comfort
If they are scared of the fireworks this can help calm and reassure your dog that there is nothing to worry about. Stroking and cuddling is fine if they need comforting, but if they choose to hide it’s best to let them.
8. Act natural
While it’s ok to praise and comfort your dog if they are scared of the fireworks, be sure to stay calm to avoid reinforcing their behaviour. In other words, if you act worried your dog will think there is a reason for them to be worried. Acting as normal as possible is key.
9. Try a thundershirt
Thundershirts, or pressure vests, provide consistent pressure on a dog’s core and are designed to have a calming effect. Studies suggest they may have a small but beneficial impact on anxiety. However, it’s unlikely your dog’s anxiety will be fully alleviated by wearing a thundershirt, and, in some cases, these products may have no beneficial effect at all.