Fireworks - help for your dog

How to help your dog

Signs of stress

The first thing to do if you are concerned about your dog’s reaction to fireworks is to watch him for signs of stress and anxiety. These can include:

  1. trembling
  2. restlessness
  3. destructiveness
  4. hiding
  5. pacing
  6. panting
  7. attention seeking
  8. shaking
  9. escape behaviour
  10. loss of house training
  11. whining
  12. barking

Any of these types of behaviour could indicate that your dog is developing a phobia towards noise. Occasionally, once a phobia begins to develop, your dog may begin to display similar symptoms towards other sudden noises, so it is very important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.

Adviceservices Owningaguidedog Fireworksafety Help1Early experiences are very important for the development of puppies and if dogs are exposed to a variety of sights and sounds from an early age, they’re less likely to have adverse reactions when they grow up. However, there’s no guarantee that even the soundest of dogs won’t display an unexpected reaction later in life – it only takes a single scary event to induce a fear response.

What you can do

  1. Making sure his environment is safe and that he cannot escape.
  2. Ensuring he always wear a collar and disk – just in case of a successful escape attempt.
  3. Trying to ignore any signs of restlessness and stress and rewarding any calm, relaxed behaviour.
  4. Preparing a “den” for him, away from windows.
  5. Covering a table with a blanket or placing his bed behind a sofa where he will feel safe, secure and comfortable.

What not to do

We would advise you never to:

  • Let your dog go outside when fireworks are sounding, even if he shows no signs of stress.
  • Exercise or walk him when fireworks are likely.
  • Punish your dog for being frightened.
  • Leave him alone during the firework period.
  • Fuss or try and reassure your dog when he is frightened, as this rewards the fear behaviour and will encourage him to repeat it.
  • Take your dog to a firework display.

Further help for you and your dog

If you take all these steps and your dog is still very distressed by firework noise, you may need some additional help from a specialist, such as a health advisor, dogAdviceservices Owningaguidedog Fireworksafety Help2 trainer, behaviourist or vet.

  1. Closing the curtains to reduce the likelihood of flashes, and turning on the TV or radio.
  2. Feeding your dog before the noise starts – this should encourage him to rest.
  3. Not leaving him alone – dogs are pack animals and need the security and confidence provided by the presence of others.
  4. Finding him a friend! The companionship of a confident dog can give reassurance to a fearful one.
  5. Occupying him with food-filled toys or other fun activities.
  6. Choosing safe times for exercise and relief.
  7. Temporarily moving his sleeping area. Moving it closer to you can increase his confidence.
  8. Remaining calm and relaxed yourself (even if you’re frightened of fireworks too!).

Good luck!Adviceservices Owningaguidedog Fireworksafety Help4

The earlier in advance you begin your preparations, the more likely it is that your dog will be able to cope with the sound of fireworks. A vet can give you specific techniques to help him to adjust to sudden sounds in a safe environmnent, or refer you to a behaviourist.

If you are a guide dog owner, or a volunteer working with guide dogs or pups, and are having difficulties with your dog because of fireworks, please contact your local Guide Dogs staff.