Fireworks Anxiety in Dogs
It’s almost Fireworks season and for some dog owners, it can be a very worrying time. I have seen perfectly normal dogs reduced to quivering wrecks at this time of year and it is so upsetting for dog owners to see their pet in this emotional state.
I hope this post helps to spot the signs of fireworks anxiety in dogs.
Most of these tips can be used on other types of dog anxiety too.
For some, this may be your puppies first experience of fireworks so it is extra important to reassure the dog that fireworks are nothing to be scared of. If you approach this the right way, the dog should be fine in years to come.
Rescue dogs, however, may come with a bad case of fireworks anxiety already. This is harder to solve because the owner has to calm and reassure a damaged mindset.
This year, here at Waggy Tales we are about to experience both of the above. Firstly we have rescue dog Darcy, already an anxious dog and terrified of fireworks, possibly because he was kept outside in a previous home.
Then we have Luca, a puppy approaching his first birthday, but yet to experience the noise of fireworks.
The one piece of advice I strongly recommend is to be there for your dog when fireworks are expected. If you have to go out get a relative to sit with the dog for the time that you are away. Studies have shown that dog’s turn to their owners when they are frightened so your presence alone will help an anxious dog. In addition, the dog will be watching your reaction to the loud bangs and will relax if he can see that the noises don’t affect you.
All dogs react differently to stress so it is important that you know the signs to look out for. It’s obvious that a shaking, cowering dog is scared but he may hide this fear and show it in a different way. The dog may be uncharacteristically short-tempered so keep the children away, and explain that he is scared and needs his space. Other behaviours may arise so be aware of the signs that your pet is frightened.
So how do you recognise the signs that your dog is stressed, scared or anxious?
Aggression toward people or other animals.
Panting, pacing, crying, howling.
Scratching at doors.
Helping a rescue dog who already has Fireworks Anxiety.
I try to keep Darcy in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere with a familiar routine. Exercise is very important for keeping him calm and expelling nervous energy so a long afternoon walk helps to calm his mind.
I also use hand massage on Darcy which he loves. Quiet reassurance also helps, I say ‘Everything’s Fine’ repeatedly and Darcy seems to take that as a signal that he can start to relax.
Some people recommend a DAP ( Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffuser or spray. The synthetic chemical resembles the mothers smell and calms down puppies. I haven’t used this because Darcy wasn’t a puppy when we adopted him.
Classical music has been shown to help calm down anxiety in very much the same way that it soothes people.
A Thundershirt is a coat which is attached firmly around the dog’s torso in a very similar way to swaddling a baby. The theory is that the tightly secured coat makes the dog feel safe. I bought one for Darcy and he is always happy for me to put it on him. He wears it for trips to the vets, on Bonfire Night and if we sway from our normal routine (eg Christmas or holidays) There was no miraculous cure, unfortunately. I would say that the Thundershirt is very good for bringing levels of anxiety down, but not diminishing it.
The fabric is not as thick as I expected but the velcro fasteners are good quality and the range of sizes is very good. If you wait until your dog is fully grown, measure carefully and the coat should last a lifetime. It would be good for an anxious and reactive dog on walks where traffic noise, and other dogs, can be unpredictable.
Also, I tried Bach Rescue Remedy (they do a pet variety )which is made from flowers and believed to help with anxiety in a natural way. I was advised to put four drops in the dogs drinking water by a lady who runs a dog rescue, she recommended it to help foster dogs settle in. There was a definite change to Darcy when I gave him the drops directly from a treat.
Medication can be supplied by a vet but it can only be given in extreme cases.
Here is a link to an earlier post which may be helpful.
How to introduce a puppy to the noise of fireworks
Create a calm atmosphere for the puppy on the night that you expect fireworks to be going off.
Take for a walk before dusk and feed early so that the dog is tired with a full tummy.
Close windows, shut curtains and turn the television up a little.
Keep the puppy indoors and try not to leave him alone.
Have a cosy bed or crate nearby, somewhere the pup recognises as his ‘safe’ place.
Fill a Kong with a tasty treat to keep him distracted from the noise.
Just act normal, the pup will detect any anxiousness and react in the same way.
This is something that I have tried with thunderstorms and found really helpful.
You need to start playing a recording of fireworks several weeks before the season starts. At first, keep the volume down and see how the dog reacts. Then slowly over time turn the noise level up and play often so that the dog gets used to the sounds. If the dog reacts badly turn the volume down for a little while longer and reward the dogs calm behaviour with treats.
I found a site on YouTube which produced firework sounds.
This can be time-consuming but really works!
Amazon Affiliate Links
Thank you for reading, have a peaceful and safe Bonfire Night x