Remember, remember the 5th of November… For a dog owner, it can be difficult to forget!
I’m fortunate in this respect, Kimber may have a lot of issues, but fear of fireworks is, thankfully, not one of them. Or not yet at least.
Unfortunately, a fear or phobia can develop at any stage during a dog’s life, as with humans, although it is more likely to start when young, it only takes one event that the dog responds negatively to, to set it off. So, if you have an older dog, don’t be complacent; every year I watch Kimber as I hear the first lot start (usually mid-October), and so far so good. Although, we did have some particularly loud ones last year when Westfield shopping centre in White City was celebrating their 10th anniversary. They received a lot of complaints from local residents!
If you have a new pup
If this will be their first experience of fireworks, as soon as you hear them start up, turn it into a fun time for them and give them treats, praise, belly rubs – whatever they find enjoyable and rewarding. You want to build up a positive association with these loud noises. If you do this every time there are fireworks, and follow the rest of the advice here, you should be well on the way to avoiding a fear response. (NB Use the same method for dealing with thunder and lightning as well)
If you have a dog that has already developed a fear
The key here is managing the situation as positively as possible. You can use Pet Remedy tools such as their plug-in adaptor, or the bandana to help lower anxiety levels. Close the curtains, turn the lights on, so the flashes are less visible, and turn up the TV a bit to reduce the sound of the fireworks. If you know there’s a display near you at night, take your dog out for a long walk during the day, so they’re more tired in the evening. Set up brain games, or a Snuffle Rug to give them something on which to focus. If their brain is engaged, the emotions get switched off (and vice versa – so you need to get in with these games before they have an emotional response to the noise).
Don’t expose your dog to fireworks unnecessarily
Avoid walks after dark when they’re more likely to be going on – even if they appear to be ok with the noise. It’s one thing to be ok with the noise outside when your safe in the warm, but another entirely when it’s directly overhead, with accompanying flashes.
Try to be at home
When you know there will be fireworks, try to be at home so that you can react accordingly to their needs. If you do have to go out, close the curtains and leave on DogTV or a classical station on the radio (one with as little talking or singing as possible) to help block out the lights and sound.
Lastly, there’s some old advice out there that says giving comfort validates your dog’s fears. This advice is untrue; please feel free to comfort your dog if they’re scared or unsure.
We wish you luck over the fireworks season, stay safe and stay positive.
Not every dog will enjoy the heat, the crowds, or all the strange dogs. Make sure that you're taking your dog's needs into account when attending events like this.