Fireworks are pretty and remind us that there is something to celebrate and be grateful for.
Fireworks are also something a lot of dog owners dread because they know how these so called ‘pretty lights in the sky’ are going to make their dog feel.
And it’s not pretty.
For some fur mums and dads, fireworks season is easy, breezy – mac and cheesy.
But for others, like me, bracing ourselves and preparing for the worst is very normal when it comes to fireworks.
So why do some dogs have a bad reaction to fireworks?
Well, to keep it simple, fireworks can be really loud and our fur babies have very sensitive hearing.
Fireworks are also unexpected and generally continue to crackle at an unfamiliar rhythm to our dogs.
The sudden loud noises and flashes in the night sky can often scare our dog into a flight or fight situation where they feel the need to run away from the danger or become very aggressive and fight.
In the case of your dog needing to run away and them not being able too, this could actually cause them even more unwanted stress and anxiety because they feel trapped, leaving them very vulnerable.
Fireworks can be extremely uncomfortable for dogs and cause a lot of stress on their bodies. In extreme cases, if your dog is a very nervous or anxious dog, sudden fireworks could cause your dog’s heart to stop from the adrenaline and have you hating fireworks for life.
So, please know, you are not overreacting, you really are potentially saving their lives!!
If you feel your dog is having extreme reactions to loud sounds (like fireworks), please see your vet straight away!
Some common signs of distress during fireworks are:
- Seeking comfort
If your dog tends to show any of these signs, please read on and take with you some solutions to get you and your dog through this season of fireworks!
Be prepared: Know when fireworks are going to be shooting into the sky and have a good idea of where they will be popping. It just means that you can be prepared to nurture your dog through the fireworks or make the decision to stay at a friends place, far-far away.
Energy: No matter what calming method you decide to try, if your energy is not one of calm and relaxed, your dog is going to feel it and resist all your calming methods!! Remember to breath and calm yourself first and then do what you can to bring comfort to what could be a very distressed dog.
Before night sets in: When you know fireworks are coming, try doing all the things BEFORE it gets dark. That means making sure all walks and exercise activities are done, all bathroom duties have been completed and that dinner has been served.
Why? Because you want to have your dog inside, in its safe haven BEFORE the noise and flashing lights startle them and set them off. It’s not worth risking an unsettled dog for something you can easily do to help them through fireworks.
Having a full belly earlier in the evening means that if your fur baby does become unsettled later in the evening, they are less likely to have their dinner come up the wrong way. It also helps their tummies to settle faster if they are not feeling stuffed from dinner.
Ask your neighbours: If you’re in an area where your neighbours like to participate in the fireworks activities, it’s MORE than OK to actually pop by or send them a note asking them to let you know whether or not they are going to be setting off fireworks. If you explain that your dog is dreadfully frightened of the noise and flashes, most neighbours would be more than happy to let you know. And now you can make the decision to either be away for the evening, or to turn your house into a puppy safe haven.
Create a safe haven for your terrified dog: There are so many ways to this!!
- Avoid turning off all lights because the flashes of the fireworks in the night sky will alert your dog to danger. Keep lights on and curtains closed.
- Use your bathroom as a safe zone for your pooch. The tiles and ceramics actually act as a bit of a sound muffler for your dog. Cover the windows and try to pad your windows with towels etc to keep the sound out.
- In your bathtub or bathroom sink, add some lavender essential oil to hot water to create a calming and soothing steam that will have your dog relaxed in no time.
- Create white noise for your dog. Use familiar and soothing sounds like a smooth radio station, a fan, the dryer, a chilled movie (nothing with loud bangs!).
- Distract your dog!! Use toys like the snuffle mat, the enrichment bone, licki mats, playing the bell game (see video below), to get them thinking about something else. Anything that will stimulate their brain will keep them occupied and also tire them out so that they can sleep easier. You can also use items such as long lasting coffee wood chews and chew roots to keep your dog busy for hours!
Acclimation: In other words – desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks by having your dog listen to fireworks sounds at a really low volume followed by treats and rewards for staying calm. If you can have them listen to the sounds before food, or play time or walks etc. it teaches them that the firework sounds mean good things are coming. Slowly, increase the volume and continue to reward them for good behaviour. If they start to react at a louder volume, go back a step and try again. This process can take anywhere from 30 days to 4 months, so be sure to be in it for the long haul.
Carpool: If your dog is normally a good travel buddy and loves to take rides in the car, it is worth considering taking them for a car ride, far away form the loud noises and flashing skylights! The car sounds and vibrations can be very soothing and therapeutic for dogs (and humans).
Compression: Try the thundershirt! It uses light compression on the body as a way to calm anxious dogs. It can be very effective but only if you get them on BEFORE they have a complete meltdown. Rather than using thundershirts as cure, use it as a preventative and put it on earlier in the night.
Calming melts: These are very effective wax melts that use calming essential oils. They can have your room filled with calming fragrances and your dogs sleeping peacefully within 20 minutes.
Pet Remedy plug-in and calming and de-stressing spray: It does what it says – it calms them down. You can use the plug-in for a continuous calming aroma and you can use the spray around their neck or on their bedding to keep them relaxed. Pet Remedy actually specifies that it is suitable for fireworks and that it has been clinically proven to work.
CBD oil: Or cannabis oil is one of those things that by law, we cannot recommend or sell for dogs but we can strongly suggest it! It’s easy enough to buy it for human consumption (I use The Herb Kingdom – THK800), and then you can add it to their meals or rub it on their gums. It’s perfect for dogs who suffer with anxiety disorders – or the fear of fireworks!
Lastly, Tellington T Touch: A special massage and pressure technique used to calm a stressed dog down using circular and linear motions. Watch the video below for a demonstration of how to apply the technique to your dog!
What are some fireworks experiences that you have had with your dog? Have you tried something that really worked to help calm them down? We’d love to hear from you! Information shared is a potential life spared. Leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paws of Love,
Sarah (fur mum to Frank) xo
P.S. Are you in the Frank and Jellys ‘Doggy Detectives’ Facebook group? It’s a place where fur mums and dads go to make friends, test doggy products and share stories on best products. PLUS we always share tips and tricks as well as offering advice and sharing experiences when one of our furry friends is not well or not behaving! It’s great fun and it’s absolutely FREE to join! Come join the fun HERE xo.
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