Humans like to celebrate a joyous event with fireworks. But for most dogs, in fact nearly 45% of them according to a research by RSPCA, get very uncomfortable during a firework show. If your dog goes frantic when firework season arrives, you are not alone. Many dogs perceive fireworks as a threat because of the unpredictability and noise created by fireworks. Your dog may bark at the noises or try to run away and hide because it triggers their fight-or-flight response. They may also show other signs of anxiety, too, like restlessness, panting, pacing and whining.
1) Train your dog to get used to loud noises
While there are things you can do to calm your dog during fireworks, getting your dog used to loud sounds can be a better long-term solution. By gradually desensitising your dog to loud noises over a period of time, you can teach them to associate these sounds with something positive, instead of something to be scared of.
You will need to start this training weeks before your dog actually encouters real fireworks. Prepare a recording of fireworks and your pet's favorite treats or toy before starting the training. It is also best to do this training indoors, to avoid other external distractions. You will also need a way to play the fireworks recording at a loud volume.
Start by playing the fireworks sound at a low volume, gradually increasing a little day after day until your dog starts to react to the noise of the firework. You can tell when your dog starts to pause or twitches its ears. You can increase the volume of the recording gradually when your dog stops responding to the noise at each volume level. Do this for a period of weeks, until your dog does not respond to the firework noise even at high volumes.
If at any point your dog get scared, stop the recording immediately and try it a lower volume the next session. You may have progressed too quickly and your dog has not adjusted to the volume yet.
This next step is to provide a positive association to fireworks noise. Start by bringing out that favorite toy or treats. When they start to become excited do not give it to them immediately, instead calmly sit down for a few minutes. When your dog has calmed down start playing the firework sound. It is best to use a remote control, so your pet does not see you turning it on. When they start to hear the sounds, give them the treats or start playing with them. Once they have finished the treat, turn of the sound immediately. Keep repeating this step until your dog starts to get excited when they hear the firework sounds. Then you can increase the volume of the sound gradually, until your dog starts to associate the noise of fireworks to something that is enjoyable, like playing or eating.
Even when your dog is desensitized from the noise of fireworks, they still can get stressed hearing fireworks. The following tips will help them manage their stress and keep them comfortable especially when you are unable to train them to be desensitized to firework noises.
2) Walk them during day time before the fireworks
If you know that there will be a firework show later in the day, walk them during day time to avoid bringing them out when fireworks are most like to be set off. If your dog is particularly sensitive, you may also consider feeding them early as well. If you are unable to bring them out for walks due to your schedule, you can always get a loving dog walker with Petbacker to help them walk your dog for you.
3) Muffle the sound of fireworks
You can minimized the noise that your pet hears by closing your doors and windows or drawing your curtains shut to muffle out the sound of fireworks.
4) Play some music or turn on the tv
Try to mask out the sound of fireworks by turning on the TV or Radio, or playing some music. This will help in masking out the sudden bangs associated with fireworks.
5) Create a personal space for your dog
Prepare a little space or corner where your dog can feel in control. This can provide them a place where they are familiar with and are less stressed out due to the confusion and uncertainty of fireworks.
6) Create some hiding places around your home
Having a place for your dog to hide away will help your dog cope with the stress. A table draped with a blanket is a great retreat, or if your dog is used to being in a crate, cover it and leave it open with blankets inside. Don’t lock your dog in the crate, as this can be even more stressful for them. Give your dog options so they can choose where to hide.
7) Act normal and avoid excessive attention
If your dog sees that fireworks have no effect on you, this may help decrease their anxiety. Dogs are highly perceptive and will notice if you’re behaving unusually. Following your dog around or being overly affectionate may cause them to feel nervous or confused. You can still reassure your pet, by playing with their favourite toy for example but try to behave as normally as possible. The more you change your behaviour, the more anxious your dog may become suspicious that something is off.
8) Create distractions for your pet
You can provide your dog with a large chewable, or a puzzle toy, to keep your dog distracted from the noises.
9) Do not confine your dog to a locked area or room
Don’t confine your dog to one room as they may hurt themselves trying to get out, particularly if they become stressed. Dogs may also be most comfortable curled up in their usual spot with you rather than a designated ‘safe place’, so allow them access to all safe areas of the house.
10) Consult a vet
If all the above still fails to help your dog destress or feel comfortable, it is advisable to bring your pet to a vet. Vet's can prescribe medication which can help in managing your dog's stress.
No matter how much dogs do not mind the sound of fireworks, it is still best to let you pet sit out on events such as this at home. If you do not want to miss out on your favorite shows, you can always get a pet sitter from PetBacker to play with them while you take time out to enjoy the fireworks.