[UPDATED OCTOBER 2023]
There’s something quite special about being huddled around a bonfire and oohing and ahhing at fireworks whenever there’s a burst of colour. Fireworks can be a great way to celebrate an occasion - especially Bonfire Night or New Year’s Eve! But the loud noises and flashing lights of fireworks can be very frightening for our dogs.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimise your dog's stress levels during this time. In this guide, we cover some of our top tips on how to calm your dog during firework season.
Create a safe space
When they’re frightened, a dog’s instinct is to run away, so make sure your outside doors are shut and that your pooch can’t get out. Keep a couple of internal doors open in your home so they don’t feel trapped and confined to one space - this could make things worse if your dog feels like they can’t move.
Creating a safe space for your dog and allowing them to choose where to hide can be a comfort to them. This might be their bed, a crate, a blanket under the table or a space in your home where your dog feels comfortable. Introduce this space in the weeks before you expect the fireworks to start so your pet knows it’s somewhere they can de-stress and be safe.
Distract your pooch
Sometimes, a tactical distraction can work wonders! Whether it’s your canine's favourite toy, a yummy treat, a bit of relaxing brushing, or lots of cuddling and playing, taking your dog’s mind off what’s going on outside and giving them some extra attention can be an effective way of dealing with anxiety.
Draw the curtains and close the windows
Try blocking out as much noise and light as possible by keeping windows closed and locked. This can help to muffle the sound of fireworks. Closing your curtains or replacing them with darker/heavier ones can also help to keep out any flashes of light associated with the “bang” of fireworks.
Play some music or turn on the TV
Part of the reason dogs find fireworks scary is because of the loud crashing noises they make. The sudden bang of fireworks can be masked or diluted by keeping a radio or TV on. Playing calm music, such as classical music, not only blocks out the noise of the fireworks but may also help them to relax.
Remain calm yourself
Animals are highly perceptive creatures and often notice if their humans are behaving unusually. They naturally notice when their paw-rents are upset, frightened or stressed. Following your dog around or being overly affectionate could cause them to feel nervous or confused if they aren’t used to this behaviour. You can reassure your pet by playing with their favourite toy, for example, but try to behave as normally as possible. The more you change your behaviour, the more anxious your dog may become.
What to do if your dog still seems anxious
Seek advice from a vet
If these techniques don’t seem to work, or if you feel your dog may be experiencing prolonged anxiety or a change in behaviour, seek professional advice from your vet. They may be able to provide medication to help reduce your pet’s anxiety or put you in touch with a behavioural expert.
Try a calming aid
Nutritional supplements can help to calm your dog during fireworks season and all year round. Our YuMOVE Calming Care range, with scientifically backed ingredients, can help to promote calmness and reduce anxiety. It’s best to introduce a supplement in advance so your furry friend can have the best chance of staying calmer when the fireworks are lit.
Long-term support – 6 months+ ahead
Work with a certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist
Ideally, it’s best to think long-term and get expert advice from a certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist with up-to-date skills, knowledge and experience.
Behaviourists can be particularly helpful for dogs worried about fireworks and may have become ‘sensitised’. This means that rather than fireworks being a part of everyday life, your dog has come to associate them with feelings of fear. Unfortunately, this has a knock-on effect as the fear of firework noises can escalate into a fear of loud noises more widely. Early intervention is best to prevent the fear from potentially worsening and affecting other situations.
Behaviour therapy can support your dog with long-lasting effects. Your behaviourist is the best person to advise you with a plan tailored to your dog’s needs. Behaviour therapy teaches your dog something new about the things they fear. One technique a behaviourist might use is sound therapy – though there are other options to suit different dogs.