Dogs and Fireworks

Adults and children alike look forward to the fireworks at Hallowe’en, New Year’s Eve and other occasions – but we sometimes forget that a lot of animals suffer terrible anxiety as a result of loud noise and flashing lights. You should keep your cat indoors if at all possible, but it is dogs who suffer the most around fireworks.

Some dogs have no problem with the sight and sound of fireworks if they’ve been desensitized — hunting dogs, for example, grow used to the sounds and smells of hunting rifles and gun powder. Most dogs, however, are not used to these things, so fireworks can be particularly stressful for them.

For example, more pets (dogs and cats) run away on Hallowe’en than any other day, so you should take extra steps to ensure their safety. Keep a keen eye on your pets during the commotion, and make sure your they are wearing proper identification.

You should arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays — a friend’s or relative’s home (ideally out of town) or a doggie day care with which your dog is familiar. If it’s an unfamiliar place for your dog, take him over there a few times in the days before the holiday so that it won’t be a surprise when you take him there before fireworks start firing off.

If you are going to be with your dog during the fireworks, sending the calming message that they are nothing to worry about will also help him to relax. Remember, though, while humans communicate with words, dogs communicate with energy, and will look to their pack leader for clues on how they should behave. If you’re not making a big deal or showing excitement about the fireworks, then he will learn to be less concerned as well.

In all cases above, expend your dog’s excess energy first, before the fireworks start, by taking her on a very long walk to tire her out and put her in a calm state.

Consider purchasing an anxiety wrap (“thundershirt” in US) to keep your dog calm. They’ve been widely reported to work quite well at keeping dogs calm during fireworks.

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Most importantly, don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on a great, fun time. That’s human guilt. Your dog won’t know what she’s missing. You’re being a good pack leader by not exposing her to a situation that will trigger her flight instinct in a negative way. When the booms and bangs are over, your dog will be grateful to you for having made it a less stressful experience!

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