Dogs and Fireworks – Keeping Your Dog Calm

It might be an exciting time of year for us, with Halloween, Bonfire Night and Diwali celebrations. But for pets the loud, unexpected firework bangs can induce fear and stress. In fact the PDSA 2022 wellbeing report showed that 41% of dogs are scared of fireworks. Common signs that dogs show when they’re stressed include shaking, panting, pacing, barking and hiding. The good news is there are lots of things you can do to help your dog cope.

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How to help your dog stay calm during fireworks season

How to help a dog that’s scared of fireworks

Dogs that are scared of fireworks often have noise phobias to other loud noises too. It’s a good idea to speak to a vet if your pet has noise fears. The vet may recommend medications, supplements or calming pheromones to help depending on how bad their fear is. They can also refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist to help overcome their fear and train them that fireworks aren’t scary.

Our friendly Joii and behaviour team are on hand to help with this through the Joii app.

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In the meantime, follow our tips below to help keep your pets safe and calm this fireworks night.

Avoid letting your dog outdoors at times when fireworks are likely to go off

Prepare early by taking your dog on a nice long walk in the daytime. Give them an early dinner and take them out to the toilet before the noises start. Then hunker down for the night, close the curtains or blinds and get cosy. 

Create a safe place inside your home for your dog to hide from fireworks

Having somewhere safe to hide will help your dog feel less vulnerable. Create a safe, cosy den with your dog’s favourite bedding, toys and treats inside. This could be a table or a crate if they are used to this, with a duvet or blanket over the top to muffle the noise. Make sure you keep the crate door open so they have the option to come in and out as they please. It’s a good idea to put their safe den in a room they feel comfortable, perhaps near you and ideally away from any windows.

dogs and fireworks
Dog in a cosy safe den with chew toys

Keep the TV or radio on to reduce the impact of sudden loud noises 

Calming classical music or music with a steady base (as long as this doesn’t worry your dog) can help muffle out the bangs. Keeping the radio or TV on can also help. You could put a calming doggy playlist on next to your dog’s safe den to help them feel more relaxed.

Don’t confine your dog to one room

If they are shut in one room or crate and they start to panic, they may injure themselves trying to get out. Instead allow them the option to come in and out of their safe area. Many dogs will seek out their owners for comfort so having you near and accessible is a good idea.

Draw the curtains or cover the windows to minimise the lights from fireworks

The flashing lights from fireworks can also be alarming for our furry friends. Close the curtains or blinds and try to block these out as much as possible before your dog catches sight of them, as this can trigger their fearful behaviour.

Keep your dog distracted

Long-lasting food stuffed toys such as Kongs are great to keep them entertained. Put their favourite treats or Kong paste inside and freeze to make them last longer. Lick mats, puzzle toys and playing games will help keep your dog distracted too.

Make your home and garden escape-proof

Keep the windows and doors closed to keep your pets safe. Ideally make sure your dog can’t access the doors to outside, especially if people are coming in and out. Make your garden safe and secure, just in case they escape, so they won’t get lost in a panic. Check their microchip details are up to date too, worst case scenario if they do escape, they can be identified at the vets and reunited with you easily.

Should I crate my dog during fireworks?

Avoid confining your dog in a crate during fireworks. If they panic and want to escape, they may hurt themselves trying to dig or chew their way out. Instead if they have a crate they are used to settling in, this can make a great safe haven to hide. Leave the door open and put a duvet or blanket over the top to muffle the noise.

Are some dogs more scared of fireworks than others?

Yes! Fear of fireworks can range from mild to severe. Dogs that have a mild fear recover more quickly and are more likely to be comforted by you and the calming measures in the home. Dogs that feel very scared will show more extreme panic. They may be unable to settle or be comforted and take longer to recover after the event. These dogs are likely to need vet prescribed medication and advice from a clinical animal behaviourist to help them cope.

Dogs that can be at higher risk for feeling more scared include rescue dogs and those that have generalised anxiety or other behavioural issues such as separation issues. It’s also really common for dogs with noise fears to have chronic pain that could be making things worse. Especially in older dogs or if the fear is getting worse. Having your dog checked by a vet is the best way to rule out pain and find out if they need medication to help.

You can speak to our Joii vets 24/7 through the app for more advice on this.

How to prepare your dog for fireworks in advance

The good news is firework fears can be treated. This is done with a desensitisation programme over a few weeks or months. The aim is to help your dog associate fireworks with something positive instead. For the best results and to avoid making them more anxious, this should be done with the advice from a clinical animal behaviourist. A vet can check if your dog needs medication alongside and refer you to a qualified behaviourist. With desensitisation, you start by playing your dog firework sounds at a very low level so that they don’t show signs of anxiety. At the same time they are given a positive reward such as a tasty Kong stuffed with treats. Over time, you can gradually increase the volume of the firework sounds. It’s important they don’t show signs of anxiety and if they do, go back a step. 

We have a clinical animal behaviourist at Joii who can guide you through this from the comfort of your own home.

How do I calm my dogs down during fireworks?

If your dog comes to you distressed, you can comfort them with calm strokes and a gentle voice. Try to act as normal and calmly as possible. If you’re stressed or anxious they’ll pick up on this and it could make them worse. Try to distract them with their favourite treats, food toys or playing a game. Avoid any punishment for unwanted behaviour as this can make them feel more anxious.

What can I give to calm my dog for fireworks anxiety?

A vet can advise you on prescription medications to help more severe anxiety. If your dog has mild anxiety then calming diffusers and supplements can help. These work best when used alongside the changes in the home environment.

The Adaptil calming pheromone diffuser or the Pet Remedy diffusers are good choices to plug in near your dog’s safe den. These release calming messages to help your dog relax. You can plug these in a couple of weeks before the firework events are expected. There are lots of calming supplements out there, with variable effectiveness so speak to a vet to find out the best one for your dog. ‘Zylkene’ and ‘Yumove calming care’ are supplements that have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Either of these can be started before the event, but speak to a vet first as sometimes they shouldn’t be given with certain other medications.

Some dogs can benefit from a calming vest such as the Thundershirt or Karma wrap. This is like giving your dog a big comforting hug. Some dogs find this calming, others can get more stressed so it’s worth giving it a try before the event.

Does CBD oil help dogs with a fear of fireworks?

CBD oil can anecdotally reduce anxiety and stress however there isn’t strong evidence of its benefit in dogs, or a safe and effective dose. There are other licensed and tested medications and supplements that are more appropriate and effective for firework fears in dogs. If you want to find out more about CBD oil, speak to a vet about a dog friendly product and if it’s safe to use in your dog.

Is your dog still scared of fireworks? Ask for help from a behaviourist

If your dog is still stressed despite the calming changes in the home, then it’s time to see a qualified animal behaviourist for advice. A vet can refer you to a suitably qualified behaviourist for advice to help desensitise your dog to fireworks and teach them not to be scared. Speak to our vets through the Joii app anytime to book a behaviour appointment.

calm dog fireworks

Fear of fireworks can take time and patience to overcome. But with the calming measures mentioned and advice from our vets and behaviour team, your dog should feel more relaxed. Often a range of different treatments and therapies are needed alongside advice from a behaviourist to help in the long run. If fears are left they can get worse. So seek advice as soon as you can to ensure stress-free firework seasons for you and your pets in the future.

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