Dogs and Fireworks | A Complete Guide to Help Your Dog Cope During Fireworks
The holiday season often brings joy, celebration, and, of course, fireworks. Whilst these dazzling displays light up the night sky with wonder for us, our furry friends might not share the same enthusiasm. For dogs, fireworks can be a source of intense fear and anxiety. In fact, according to PDSA's 2022 Paw Report, '41% of dog owners (4.1 million dogs)' reported that their dog was afraid of fireworks.
Understanding why fireworks scare dogs and how to help them cope is crucial to ensure your dog feels as comfortable and safe as possible during fireworks.
Why do fireworks scare dogs?
Fireworks terrify dogs due to their heightened sensory perception, unpredictable loud noises, and the lack of understanding about the source. The flashing lights can also be disorienting. Additionally, negative experiences with fireworks can create a Pavlovian fear response, whilst evolutionary factors trigger their primitive instincts to perceive loud noises as danger. Understanding these reasons is crucial to helping your dog cope with the anxiety caused by fireworks.
How you can tell if your dog fears fireworks
Your dog can't communicate their fears in words, but your dog's body language speaks volumes. Dogs, along with humans, actually have four fear responses: Fight, flight, fret, and freeze. The ways in which these responses are elicited can vary from one dog to another. Here are some signs your dog may be terrified of fireworks:
A tail held tightly between the legs is a classic sign your dog has anxiety.
If you find your dog hiding, this can indicate your dog is scared as they are trying to find shelter.
Trying to escape
A clear sign your dog is in fear is if they attempt to escape from the noise.
Tremors and shivers
Shivering or trembling can be a clear sign that your dog is in distress.
Pacing or restlessness
Your dog may pace or exhibit restlessness when they're anxious.
Loss of appetite
Stress can lead to a loss of appetite. Be sure to keep an eye on your dog's eating habits to make sure they are still eating.
Dilated pupils can indicate fear or anxiety in your dog.
How to prepare your dog for fireworks
Ensure your dog's safety and comfort during fireworks by taking proactive steps in advance. Here's how to prepare your furry companion for a more peaceful experience when the fireworks light up the night sky.
Desensitise your dog to the noise
To help your dog adapt to the explosive sounds of fireworks, gradually expose them to recorded firework noises. By slowly exposing your dog to these sounds, you're essentially desensitising them to the noise, which in turn can ease their anxiety and make the experience less distressing.
Secure your home
Ensure all windows are securely closed and locked, creating a safe environment where your dog can't escape. According to data by Petlog, '34% more dogs were marked as missing by their owners during the two weeks of November 2021'. By securing your home, you prevent your pet from running off in a panic during the fireworks display.
Give your dog their prescribed medication
Consult your veterinarian about prescribed medications that can help alleviate your dog's anxiety during fireworks. Medication can be an effective tool to keep your four-legged friend calm when the fireworks begin. A researcher summarised that prescription medication appeared to be one of the most effective strategies in treating dogs with a fear of fireworks. Improvements in their dog's anxiety were noted by 70% of the owners.
Walk your dog before dark
Take your dog for a walk before nightfall. A pre-fireworks stroll provides your dog exercise and helps tire them out, making them more relaxed and less reactive to the fireworks' noise and lights.
Ways to keep your dog calm during fireworks
When the fireworks light up the night sky, it's crucial to keep your dog as calm as possible. Here are effective strategies to ensure your furry friend's peace and comfort during this challenging time.
Be there for your dog
When the fireworks start, your presence can be the most comforting thing for your dog. Being there for your furry companion is not just a reassurance; it's a vital part of helping them cope with their anxiety. Spend time with your dog, offer soothing words, and gentle strokes to create a sense of safety. Your unwavering support will go a long way in making the experience less stressful for your dog, reinforcing the bond you share, and ensuring their well-being during firework displays.
Dog chews and toys
Giving your dog something to chew might not be your first thought when wanting to calm stressful or anxious behaviour. It is, however, completely natural and really important to encourage your dog to chew. However, it is essential you direct the chewing to something appropriate, such as a long-lasting dog treat or a toy.
Chewing helps your dog relieve stress by releasing endorphins and has a calming and comforting effect on the adrenal-pituitary axis in your dog's brain.
Here at Skipper's, we offer a range of durable, natural, healthy treats for your dog to enjoy and help alleviate some of the stress of bonfire night. Not only that, these long-lasting dog treats are great for keeping your dog's teeth clean.
Wolf Fish Throw Sticks
Fish Skin Flatties
Wolf Fish Twists
Fish Finger Skins
Anxiety vests for dogs
Anxiety-reducing vests can play a significant role in calming your dog during fireworks. These specially designed garments provide gentle, constant pressure, akin to a reassuring hug, which can help alleviate your dog's stress and anxiety. By wrapping your dog in one of these vests, you provide a sense of security, making them feel protected during the fireworks display. It's a non-invasive way to soothe their nerves and ensure a more peaceful experience for your furry friend. Consider this option to enhance your dog's comfort and well-being when the night sky lights up with fireworks.
The Classic ThunderShirt is the original natural calming solution. Like swaddling an infant, ThunderShirt's patented design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement issues. Great for thunderstorms, fireworks, separation anxiety, travel, vet visits, problem barking, reactivity, and other stressful situations.
Over 80% effective
No training required
Homemade calming dog treats
Chamomile Lavender Calming Dog Biscuits (Grain-Free) - These homemade calming dog biscuits, infused with chamomile and lavender, will make a delightful and soothing treat for your furry friend.
1 cup organic coconut flour
½ cup cinnamon apple sauce
2 large eggs
½ cup dried chamomile
¼ cup dried lavender
⅓ cup coconut oil
Preheat your oven to 135°C. Place a silicone mould on a baking sheet and lightly grease it with coconut oil.
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix thoroughly. The dough may appear slightly crumbly, but it should hold together when pressed into a ball in your hand.
Take a small piece of dough and form it into a ball. Press it into the silicone mould, and repeat this process until it is full.
Bake the biscuits at 135°C for 45 minutes or until they're firm.
Remove the biscuits from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully flip the silicone mould upside down onto a cooling rack. Allow the biscuits to cool completely before offering them to your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are fireworks too loud for dogs?
Fireworks are unquestionably too loud for dogs. Canine ears are incredibly sensitive, and the cacophony of fireworks can be torturous for them. The deafening explosions can reach sound levels of up to 120 decibels or more, which is well above the comfort zone for most dogs. This noise can trigger intense fear and anxiety in our furry friends, leading to a range of distressing reactions.
Can dogs go to firework displays?
It's highly advisable not to take your dog to fireworks displays. The thunderous noise and the crowded, unfamiliar environments can be intensely stressful for dogs. Their heightened anxiety can lead to erratic behaviour and even pose a risk to their safety. Keep your dog in a secure and quiet place at home to ensure your dog's comfort and well-being when there are fireworks.