Halloween is almost here, and there’s an abundance of other holidays that are about to befall on us and our dogs. As Thanksgiving approaches in America, and Bonfire Night gets closer in the UK, how will our pets cope with the noise from fireworks?
These nights are exciting, fun times for us humans, but to our dogs it can be a terrifying few hours. Fireworks used to be limited to just a few nights a year, but recently it seems we are using them to celebrate anything and everything. Hearing the bangs and whistles, and seeing the flashes in the night sky is not unusual at any time of the year anymore.
So what can we do to help our dogs deal with the fear of fireworks?
When I got Charlie, my Kelpie-German Shepherd cross, he was 5 months old and hadn’t really experienced fireworks yet. A couple of days before Bonfire Night I noticed there were a few firework displays in peoples’ gardens, so I took Charlie on a walk after dark.
As we passed hedges that had fireworks being set off on the other side, Charlie looked at me each time a loud bang startled him. I made a point of marking each bang with a lighthearted, high pitched word or two to him and gave him lots of fuss.
It worked. He wasn’t bothered at all by the fireworks that were going off over the next few nights. Unfortunately, I thought he would be fine the next year but he wasn’t. My dog was now scared of fireworks. I found I needed to acclimatize him each year, which I now do.
So what else can we do to help our dogs survive the fireworks season? Caroline Kisko from the UK Kennel Club suggests that in the lead up to the festivities, we play CDs with firework sounds, or perhaps firework videos from YouTube, so that our canines get used to the sounds being in the background.
On the main night for firework displays she suggests closing the curtains and maybe turning the TV or radio up a little. Act as normally as you can and try not to react to any really loud bangs from overhead.
On top of what Caroline has suggested, here are some dos and don’ts for keeping stress levels low for our dogs during firework displays.
1. Acclimatize your dogs to the firework sounds with sound CDs as mentioned above.
2. If your dog is severely frightened by loud noises, consider consulting a dog behaviorist. Note that using the sound CD in this case may not help the situation.
3. Mask the noise outside with the TV or radio.
4. Try not to react to the fireworks. Your dog will pick on it if you’re startled by the noises.
5. Feed your dog before the fireworks are due to start. There are likely to be many private displays going on as well as the larger organised ones but feeding your pet before dark should avoid him being put off his dog food once the loud bangs start.
6. If your dog is calm when the loud noises start, reward him with tasty dog treats and affection.
7. Close all outside doors and windows. Close curtains to help muffle the sound of the fireworks.
8. Before opening the door, make sure your dog is secure. If he has been frightened by the noises outside he may take the chance to bolt out of the house to find somewhere to hide.
1. Don’t take your pet to a firework display! Some dogs hide their stress better than others. Just because they are not barking, it doesn’t mean they are enjoying the experience. Panting or excessive yawning can indicate the dog is stressed.
2. Don’t tie your dog up outside when the fireworks are going off! If your dog is usually kept outside, it is better to get them inside during the displays.
3. If your dog needs to go out to pee, supervise him. Your garden or yard may not be as secure to a frightened animal, even if you think he’s contained there.
4. Don’t shut him in a room on his own. Keep him with you. He will be a lot calmer if you are there.
5. If he wants to hide, let him. Don’t force a dog to face his fears as it could make the situation worse.
Let’s all enjoy the celebrations but also make sure our dogs can at least get through the evening with as little stress as possible. In the meantime, do you have any stories to share, or tips for dog owners who’d like to keep their dogs safe and stress free during firework displays?