Do this if your dog is afraid of fireworks

Has your dog shown signs of fear of fireworks and loud bangs in the past? Unfortunately, it is common for dogs to be afraid of fireworks. In this article, we will give you tips on how to deal with a frightened dog both around and on New Year's Eve.

Why does your dog get scared of fireworks?

What makes a dog afraid of fireworks is individual. It could be the loud bang, the whistling sound, the flashing light or simply anything to do with fireworks that frightens them.

Dogs that are afraid of fireworks have often experienced something in the past that triggered the fear. They may have been around intense fireworks or had a firecracker thrown at them, but sometimes there is actually no trigger. Some dogs get used to it over the years by understanding that the loud bangs are not dangerous. But this is not something that applies to all dogs. Usually the dog will continue to be afraid for the rest of his life.

Symptoms of fear of fireworks

Common symptoms that show a dog is afraid are that they:

  • Panting

  • Trembling

  • Drooling

  • Hiding

  • Trying to escape or dig

  • Difficult to relax and calm down

  • Whining

  • Bites things

  • Gets diarrhoea

If your dog shows any of these symptoms around fireworks, it is likely that it has a fear of fireworks. It is common for a dog that is frightened to also show symptoms a while after the fireworks have stopped. 

What should I do?

If your dog is afraid of firecrackers and fireworks, help is available in the form of both exercise and medication. If you choose the option of exercising your dog, remember that you need to start a long time before the New Year, a few weeks before is not enough and can actually make the fear worse.

If you want to train your dog on loud noises, it is important to be very careful, take the help of a behaviourist who can set up a programme for your particular dog to overcome his fear of fireworks. To train a dog that fireworks are okay and not dangerous, the dog needs to slowly get used to the sound. The dog needs to experience it as a background noise, so it is very important to take it slowly and start with a very low noise level. If the dog shows the slightest discomfort, you should turn off the noises immediately so as not to risk aggravating the dog's fears. Having said that, it is important to understand that fear of sound is difficult to train away. It is very easy to go too fast and for the dog to have an increased reaction to loud noises. Therefore, it is very important that you seek out a canine psychologist who works with reward-based approaches for help.

There are both over-the-counter and prescription medications available to reduce your dog's fears and anxieties. If your dog shows mild anxiety, an over-the-counter supplement or preparation may help. However, if your dog has a severe fear of fireworks, there are anti-anxiety medications that your veterinarian can prescribe. Talk to your vet to give your dog the help and support it needs for New Year's Eve. 

Prevent fear of fireworks

If your dog isn't already afraid of fireworks, it's smart to work proactively to reduce the risk to a scared dog. However, it should again be added that fear of fireworks can happen at any time during a dog's life. Just because the dog shows no signs of fear its first New Year's, it is unwise to bring the dog into the situation. That's why we're taking a look at some ways to think about the New Year and how you can prevent fear before it happens.

  • Never let your dog be involved. Whether or not you have the most confident dog in the world, it's unwise to take your dog out to watch fireworks. At any time, your dog could get scared and it's hard to work the fear out. If your dog is exposed to noise for a long period of time, this can also cause your dog to form a fear.

  • Let your dog make the sounds. Traditional training is to get your dog used to sounds at a very low level to begin with. It's a method that can work if you're skilled as a dog trainer. However, you can prevent fear with simple means by enriching your dog's daily life with different activities. One of these can be to have your dog make a sound for which it is rewarded. For example, it could be searching for treats in a tray with a bunch of cutlery inside. Or putting the paw on something that makes a sound and moves and then getting a treat. Be creative and this will boost your dog's confidence.

  • Pre-build every New Year. Lock your dog in the basement, with a radio with music, give it a good chew and in this way prevent your dog from even noticing the fireworks. That way, you'll prevent your dog from getting so scared that he hides under the bed every year. When it comes to fear of sound, it's such a fine line to walk if you want to try to sound train your dog. Instead, don't let it be a part of it at all.

  • Keep your dog on a leash. Many dogs in Sweden run away during the New Year. Unfortunately, fireworks can happen both before and after New Year's Eve, so it is very important to always have your dog on a leash a few days before and after New Year's. Many dogs choose to run away when they get scared and for dogs that are afraid of fireworks it is good to have both a collar and a harness with different leashes to prevent the dog from tearing itself.

What should I do if my dog is scared?

If you have a dog that is afraid of fireworks, we recommend that you spend New Year's Eve in a quiet place, preferably outside a big city. Hotels near airports are often free of fireworks and can therefore be a good place for you and your dog to spend New Year's Eve.
Otherwise, it's all about preventing your dog from becoming more frightened than he already is. Let it hide under the bed if it wants to, be there for it as a safe support and pull down the blinds, turn on the sound on the TV/radio and give your dog a chew if it accepts it.

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