Dogs and fireworks: How to keep your pet calm?
Dogs and fireworks don´t mix. Most dogs tend to hate the loud, unexpected bangs and will cower, bark or act crazy. They don´t know where the sound is coming from, so it can be extremely scary for them.
Whether you live in the UK and have to keep your pet indoors every 5 November on Guy Fawkes Night, or you live in a country such as Spain, where fireworks are randomly set off during the day to celebrate fiestas and weddings, it’s essential for your dog’s well-being to protect them from fireworks.
This article shows you how to calm a dog during fireworks and reduce their stress.
Why do fireworks frighten dogs?
Why are dogs scared of fireworks? The obvious reason dogs are scared of fireworks is because of the loud noise they make. Dogs’ hearing is much more sensitive than ours and they can hear higher-pitched sounds than we can. They can also pick up sounds in the distance, which is why your dog may sometimes get up and bark and you have no idea why.
This makes dogs vulnerable as the sound of the fireworks is much louder to a dog than to a human. Whilst some dogs, such as hunting dogs, may be used to loud noise such as the firing of a rifle, the majority of house pets will be alarmed when they hear fireworks.
Fireworks are unpredictable
Just as many young children will burst into tears at the sound of an unexpected firework going off, a dog will be shocked too. As humans, we know when a firework display is going to be set off, and most of us enjoy the unpredictability and the amazing show of lights. But, dogs and fireworks = anxiety.
Your dog will have no idea what is making this loud noise. To them, it is a threat. This links with dogs’ heritage. Their ancestors were wild, and dogs still have wild traits in them (for example, no one can say their dog doesn´t bite with 100% confidence). This is not the dog’s fault – dogs descend from wolves and will always have an ‘animal instinct’.
In addition to having sensitive hearing, dogs are also able to smell the gunpowder that is traditionally used to make fireworks. Again, some hunting dogs will have been trained to become used to the smell, a household pet can be extremely sensitive to it.
The smell of gunpowder combined with the loud bangs creates a frightening situation for many dogs that they feel they cannot escape from. The noise and smell come sporadically and from all directions, making the dog feel trapped.
Preparing your dog for fireworks
You may live in a place where fireworks are unavoidable (e.g. the USA on the Fourth of July) so you should be well prepared if you know a firework event is coming up. The safest way to prevent your dog from being exposed to fireworks is to take them away for the duration of the event. If you can´t do this, ask a friend or family member to look after your dog for a while.
You could also consider putting your dogs in boarding kennels in another location, but make sure there will be no fireworks nearby, or they could end up being more anxious if they are separated from you as well.
Prepare at home
If taking your dog away from where you live is not possible, you should do everything you can to get your home ready for the impending firework display. A long-term idea is to play the recorded sound of fireworks to them (not too loud), so they get used to it. As you play the recording, cuddle your dog and reassure them. It’s also a good idea to play the firework sounds before feeding or a walk so they associate the noise with something pleasant.
Create an area in your home where your dog feels secure. This could be their bed, a travel carrier or a cage. Make sure there are plenty of familiar-smelling blankets so they can snuggle up if they need to. If you have a dog that likes being under a blanket, cover them up when the fireworks start and stroke and talk to them to calm them. Another idea is a doggy den or tent where you can put their bed and toys to make them feel safe.
Whether you want to stop your dog barking at fireworks or stop them from being afraid of fireworks, you should consider the use of natural medication. Lactium® is a natural milk product that can help calm your dog. To know which products containing Lactium® are available to you, do not hesitate to contact us.
Medication can be used in conjunction with advice from a dog behaviour specialist who understands why a dog gets stressed over fireworks. They can offer valuable guidance to help your dog cope with the noise and stressful situations.
Can fireworks harm dogs?
The dangers of fireworks for dogs
If you Google “dog has heart attack from fireworks” you’ll come across many heart-breaking stories of dogs that have lost their lives due to the shock of fireworks. Some dogs simply cannot cope with the fear and stress and literally die from fright or a heart attack.
Whilst this situation is extreme, it can happen. Even if there’s not such a tragic result, dogs can suffer long-term psychological problems as a result of being exposed to fireworks. A survey carried out by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) showed that 62% of dogs in the UK (and 54% of cats) show distress during fireworks.
The effect of fireworks on a dog can last for years, not just during and after the event. Your dog may become anxious and stressed at home once they have experienced fireworks. Signs of dog anxiety include:
- excessive barking and whining
- chewing things
- loss of appetite
- the inability to settle
- going to the toilet in the house
If you notice your dog seems stressed and believe it is due to fireworks or loud noises this article on pet stress can help you understand more about this damaging affliction.
Do fireworks hurt dogs’ ears?
As well as stress fireworks can cause irreversible damage to dogs’ ears. How loud are fireworks to dogs? The sound of a firework can reach 140 decibels. Compare this to these average sounds and you can see why fireworks can damage a dog’s hearing:
Human conversation 55-65 decibels
TV or radio 70-75 decibels
Rock concert 120 decibels
The loud sound of fireworks can cause tinnitus in both dogs and humans. This is a condition that can be temporary or long-term and produces a constant ringing sound in the ear as well as being painful.
Eliminating the noise
Protect your dog’s ears
If your dog will stand it, you can try putting cotton wool in their ears to protect them from the noise of fireworks. Don´t push it in too far though, or you risk damaging their internal ear.
There are also several types of ear protectors on the market you can buy for your dog. These range from specially designed earmuffs to a snood (a material scarf that goes over your dog’s head and ears). However, you may have to get your dog used to wearing ear protectors before a firework event takes place.
Secure and soundproof your home
How to block out firework noise for dogs? One idea is to make your home as soundproof as possible. Keep doors and windows closed and draw the curtains. Leave the lights on indoors and play music or have the TV on to drown out the sound of the fireworks.
You should also make sure there are no escape routes in your garden or outdoor space, just in case your dog gets out of the house and runs. If this happens, they will be scared and may lose their sense of direction and not be able to find their way home.
Keep your dog busy
While fireworks are going off, you can use this time to play an energetic game with your dog – indoors, of course. Distract them from the noise rather than let them focus on it. However, if they want to hide, don´t force them to play. Stay with them and comfort and reassure them.
Dogs understand how humans feel, so if you’re relaxed this can rub off on your dog. If they are shaking and trembling hold them – this is the perfect time for a cuddle on the sofa, even if they’re not normally allowed on the furniture.
And finally, when it’s bedtime don´t leave your dog alone, even if the fireworks have stopped (there’s always a random one that goes off in the night). Allow them to sleep in your room for the night so they feel safe being near you.
Lactium® is a natural solution that reduces stress in pets, contact us to learn more!