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Dogs and fireworks

Fireworks and dogs

Once again the main firework season is upon us…the first heard in Brockenhurst were more than a fortnight before November 5. For many dogs, and their owners, this is an anxious time. Many dogs of all ages experience fear due to loud noises, which can significantly affect their well-being

Your dog can develop a fear of fireworks at any stage in their life. The Dogs Trust has issues a guide which suggests that by taking these preventative steps, you can reduce the likelihood of your pooch becoming afraid of these inevitable loud noises.

  • Plan ahead for a cosy night-in with your dog: Find out when fireworks are likely to go off in your area. Research local events to find out when local firework displays are, check neighbourhood groups on social media, local papers and noticeboards, and talk to your neighbours to see if they’re planning on having fireworks in their gardens. You might even want to let them know (politely) how fireworks affect your dog and what you’re doing to help them. If they’ve not bought them yet – recommend silent fireworks.
  • Arrange your plans around key fireworks dates: These include Bonfire Night and Diwali, to make sure you, or someone your dog knows well, will be at home with them when scary sounds are likely.
  • Adjust your schedule: Plan your walks to make sure your dog is indoors when any fireworks are likely. This might mean changing your routine to walk them earlier in the day and changing your feeding schedule to give your dog time to eat and go to the toilet before dark.
  • Prepare your surroundings: Close all windows and doors and seal any gaps to reduce outside noise. Dogs can try to run away if they’re scared so check your doors, windows and fences are secure.   
  • Create a sanctuary: Make sure your dog has a well-established safe space they can retreat to, make it extra snug and get yourself comfy too. Introduce this ahead of fireworks so your dog learns it’s a positive place to be. Prepare some treats to distract your pooch and keep them happily occupied. Lick mats with dog-safe peanut butter are a popular choice.
  • Play their favourite games (if they want to!): Experiment with different enrichment in the run up to fireworks, to find out what treats, games and puzzles your dog enjoys the most. Dogs who are fearful of fireworks may not want to engage in activities when they’re going off and instead may seek reassurance or hide. If this happens, let them hide or give them comfort, and speak to your vet afterwards.
  • Preparing your puppy for fireworks: Help your puppy feel relaxed and confident around different sounds. To reduce the chances of your puppy developing a fear of noises, gradually and positively introduce them to a wide range of sounds.

Research shows that introduction to loud sounds is best done during puppyhood and is especially helpful for puppies that are 13 weeks of age and younger. You can use sound recordings to get your puppy accustomed to loud noises. Check out our sound therapy recordings, specifically the ‘Sounds Scary’ track. For puppies who are experiencing fireworks for the first time, planning fun activities for you to enjoy together will help strengthen your bond and make nights inside a positive experience.

Before you get started, make sure you can recognise signs of fear or anxiety in your furry pal. If you see any of these signs, you know you’re progressing too quickly and need to slow down.  Dogs can develop a fear of fireworks at any point, so along with planning for a cosy night in, we recommend you learn the signs of distress:

Vocalising more than usual like barking, growling, whining and crying

  • Jumping up at you or someone else 
  • Dribbling, drooling and panting 
  • Holding tail down between their legs
  • Hiding or trying to hide 
  • Pacing
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Salivating or lip licking
  • Pulling or running away 

On the night of fireworks, it’s important to recognise the needs of your individual dog and let them choose: If your dog wants to hide, let them stay where they feel safe. If they seek reassurance, calmly give them attention and comfort. Research shows that ignoring them won’t help. If your dog doesn’t seem worried, then it’s best to keep them busy with their favourite toys or activities so they don’t become anxious.  

If you witness any of the above in response to loud noises, The Dogs Trust recommends you make a trip to the vet. They can check if there are any medical problems contributing to your dog’s fear of noises.  Your vet may refer you to a clinical behaviourist and give advice on additional treatments like medication. Read our advice on finding a qualified behaviourist. If it’s right for your dog, medication can be extremely useful to help them cope during fireworks and stop their fear escalating. 

Fireworks are unlikely to be isolated to one night, so understanding what works for your dog will help you support them throughout the firework season. In the days after fireworks, continue to monitor your dog as you go about day-to-day activities.  And again, if your dog showed signs of fear or anxiety during fireworks, speak to your vet. Your vet can also refer you to a clinical behaviourist who can create a tailored plan to support you and your dog.

Dogs Trust advice page