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What to do if your dog is scared of fireworks holiday cottages

Advice

What to do if your dog is scared of fireworks

Kate W 03 November 2021

As the excitement of firework night draws near, those of us with dogs can only worry about our beloved pups and how it will affect them. While some canines don't mind firework night, most do not realise where the loud bangs and fizzes are coming from and this causes a lot of anxiety. 

Over on Instagram, you submitted some great questions about how to take care of your dog during firework night, and to answer them, we called in some help. Below we have collated what we know with useful information supplied by the animal behaviour and welfare specialist at Your Dog's Club.

Read on for some great tips on preparing for fireworks night, keeping your dog calm on the night itself, and how to get around pesky walking and toileting issues.

Good to know: A dog’s instinct is to escape from danger, through doors and windows, crossing roads and jumping fences, so it's a good idea to keep a watchful eye to make sure they don't run away. 

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How to prepare for fireworks night

Comfort a puppy on firework night

This will be our first fireworks night with a puppy – how can we best prepare? 

Keep the curtains closed, lights on and the radio/TV on. Try a calming plug-in (install this asap). Make sure they have somewhere to hide, keep all windows and external doors locked. If they’re worried, reach out to a force-free trainer for next year. 

Can I get my dog used to the noise of fireworks?

It is wise to start planning for the sounds of fireworks and bonfires well in advance and see if you can desensitise your dog to the noises to lessen the impact on the night. There are CDs and apps available that aim to reduce the fear of certain sounds by gently getting the dog used to them over time.

This works with some dogs who are afraid of fireworks and other noises such as thunder, but others are not so keen – be led by your dog’s behaviour on this as you don’t want to make them worse. There is plenty of information on how to do this responsibly and if your dog has a real noise phobia, a qualified behaviourist should be consulted before the desensitisation process can begin.

Dog in a cosy crate

Is it true dogs should have a cosy den to feel safe?

All dogs need somewhere that they can retreat to when they need space any time of year but it is particularly essential during fireworks night. Make sure that any space is set up weeks before so that your dog sees it as a place of security and reassurance and not a sudden unwelcome addition on the night!

A good example is to have a covered crate in the corner of the room that your dog can retreat to - fill it with things that your dog feels comfortable with such as favourite blankets and toys. A dog will feel equally as safe under a bed, under a sofa, with another canine or in your arms - each animal is different and may react in a different way. Just make sure that wherever your dog finds safety, it is free from any sharp objects or hazards.

Is there anything else I can do to prepare?

Make sure that your dog’s microchip information is up to date just in case they do escape. Even with precautions in place, dogs will sometimes do anything to escape when frightened, so be prepared. Make sure that your dog has its collar and ID tag on just in case.

Calming dogs that bark at fireworks

Dog howling at fireworks

My dog barks at fireworks – what can I do?

Try to mask the fireworks with the radio/TV and close the curtains. Reach out to a force-free trainer for long-term help.

How do you get a dog to calm down after it starts barking?

Prevent them from getting to this point as much as you can, but then try to redirect them to a calming activity (licking/sniffing) if possible. Snuffle mats and licki-mats are great for this!

Comforting your dog during firework night

Big dog on sofa

How should we do things on the night?

On fireworks night and other days where there may be organised and private parties, draw your curtains and shut all doors and windows. Lock cat flaps as dogs have been known to escape through these too! Make sure that children know not to open outside doors as they will not realise how agile their normally placid pooch can be when frightened. Be sure to keep your dog’s water bowl full as anxious dogs may drink more than normal.

Should I keep the dog in the room with me on firework night?

Let them choose! Don't leave dogs on their own on firework night though - they will need you for reassurance and if they do get themselves into a situation, they will need you to get them out of it! Put the TV or radio on and keep everything otherwise as normal as possible.

Comfort your dog but give them the option to walk away from you if they need to

Distract, comfort or ignore?

Comfort if your dog enjoys that, but give them the option to walk away. Distract with games and puzzle feeders if they’re interested. Never ignore them in their moment of need!

How can I make my dog feel better?

Try to remain as calm as possible around your pet – they look to you for guidance so if you are getting on with things as normal, it will give the impression that nothing is wrong. If you are stressed and constantly checking them to see that they are okay, they will pick that up and think that there is reason to be scared. Dogs will often find comfort with each other so make sure that they are not separated at this time if possible.

Tell children to leave scared dogs alone unless the dog comes to them for reassurance. Remember that when dogs are scared, they may show behaviour that is out of character so explain to children that they shouldn’t try to coax a dog out from its safe place. Most healthy pets will come through this however scared they are - problems tend to occur because of dogs hurting themselves whilst trying to escape - however, do look out for signs of extreme stress in sick or older dogs and call your vet if you are worried.

Working around walks and toilet time

Go for a walk in the day

My dog usually gets walked in the evening-time but is scared of fireworks – how do I handle this?

Adjust your routine and walk them earlier - we suggest taking your dog out for a nice, long walk in the day if possible. You can then play games with them or give them interactive feeders to work their brain inside instead of the evening walk.  

For a doggo that won’t pee/poo in their own garden, how do we do the last until the wee run, usually at 10pm? 

Make sure they can go to the toilet before the fireworks start. As your dog may be too scared to go into the garden later on, you may find that they have a little accident in the house – don’t shout or scold as this is not bad behaviour, it's a reaction to anxiety or fear. Just clean it up and continue with your evening calmly.

You could pop some puppy pads down next to the door for the last wee which might avoid an accident elsewhere (get the type with the chemicals that encourage weeing in them!). Make sure the wee run the next day is nice and early. 

Products to help calm your dog

Husky with dog toy

Does my dog need medication?

Always talk to your vet before giving your dog strong medication. It's important to check with your vet a long time in advance as most products need to be started during a calm period before a large event. Stronger prescription medications can be given on the night to reduce anxiety for dogs who really struggle – talk to your vet about whether this is the best option for your pet. As always, do not give any human medication to your dog without prior consultation with your vet. 

Are there any other products I can get to make fireworks night easier? 

Yes! We recommend a DAP plug-in/spray and thundershirts or a body wrap. 

Do the plug-in firework remedies work?

For most dogs, yes. The synthetic DAP remedies are usually more effective, but the natural valerian-based ones can also work.

Escape the noise on fireworks night

We hope that these tips help to keep your dog safe this firework season and all throughout the autumn! If you're looking for more ways to help your dog relax, take a look at our guide to how to calm down your dog.

Search our collection of dog-friendly cottages for autumn to book a break in a remote place where you can escape the loud noises of the fireworks and enjoy a relaxing night away instead with your precious pup. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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