Is Your Dog Scared of Fireworks?
If your dog is scared of fireworks or has a noise phobia in general, you CAN help him with training!
Over 40% of dogs are scared of fireworks and loud bangs. Not only do they not understand but their hearing is much more sensitive than our own.
A human can only hear up to 20,000Hz where as a dog can hear up to 45,000Hz and some breeds up to 75,000Hz! They have a whole different spectrum on what they can hear so are especially sensitive to loud noises, even from far away.
This article is a complete guide and includes everything you need to know to help your dog!
Below are some great tips for keeping your best friend feeling calm on bonfire night.
Is your dog new to you, or hasn’t experienced the terrors of what often sounds like a war zone?
Then DON’T leave them the first time that fireworks are going on.
They rely on you to keep them safe and will look to you for support, also you could well end up coming back to a very unsightly mess…
Dogs will often jump at the sound and then look at you to see how you react. Make sure you remain calm and act as if nothing is going on, because it is really just noise. In fact this is an excellent time to use calming signals with your dog!
Yawning, slowly blinking and turning your head away from him will tell him everything is fine. You’re relaxed so he should be too and the more you use these signals the more he will copy you!
Calming signals are a really powerful language that most dogs respond to immediately.
The Firework Sock Trick! (This photo was sent in by Janet <3)
Simply find the thickest, wool sock you can and cut out the toe. You can also buy ear defenders for dogs- Rex Specs. They will help deaden the noise and also gives the comfort of compression (works in a similar way to a Thundershirt – more on that below).
How to Train Your Dog for Fireworks
Hopefully you are reading this ahead of firework night because it is definitely worth buying a firework CD, for dogs, and playing it indoors.
Desensitisation with counter conditioning is the best way forward with any phobia. Scientific studies have proved speaking or stroking your dog is barely effective when dealing with noise phobia. Distractions with toys and games are much better- especially with food!
Play a firework CD quietly at first and slowly increase it over the next few weeks.
Have a very high value food treat ready to give to him and only give him this when he hears the noises. (This could be cooked meat or cheese – something amazing!) This will really get your dog to trust fireworks. Ideally put the sound so low that he doesn’t react at all. If this isn’t possible, don’t worry, you can still counter condition when he hears the noise immediately reward with a treat.
Another way to counter condition is using a game like fetch. Simply throw the ball every time there is a bang.
Prevention is always better than cure, if your dog has a very strong phobia I recommend this training for at least 6 months. It may seem like a lot of work but, trust me, your dog will thank you for it and you will have a dog no longer scared of fireworks! You should also do this training on the firework night.
More helpful do’s and don’ts below, for on the actual firework night.
Buy a Firework Noise CD to Train Dogs
Here are 2 great options to choose ( Amazon UK) from £5.99.
It is important to put it on extremely quietly at first, especially if your dog is very sensitive.
You could either use this several times a day with food, or have it playing a continuous loop, gradually increasing in volume over the weeks so that your dog gets used to it as background noise.
Make sure to FINISH your training program by having it playing as loud as you can (providing your dog has passed the previous levels), as fireworks in real life are extremely noisy.
Buy a Thundershirt Anxiety Coat for Dogs
A lot of dogs feel comfort wearing a Thundershirt, if they are stressed studies have shown it helps 40% of dogs. Using one on bonfire night will decrease your dog’s stress levels. (This isn’t dog psychology but it is animal psychology.) It works in the same way as a cattle press does.
Dogs and Fireworks: Tips
- Exercise your dog during the day, before bonfire night, to tire him out. A tired dog is a happy dog!
- Shut all the windows and turn up the T.V or radio, this will help deafen the noises from outside. If your dog isn’t scared of the hoover get that going!
- Give him something to chew on, not only is this tiring it is also very relaxing.
- Use calming signals when he is nervous- it is their own language and its very powerful.
- Use a lead indoors, this is direct line to you and will help to stabilize him.
- Make a den and hide treats in it to make a positive association.
- Put his bed in the quietest room.
- Play games! This may seem odd but often distraction is the best form off training – get his mind on other things… like food!
- Check that his microchip details are up to date. Accidents happen and lots of pets go missing around this time of year. Make sure all his ID is up to date encase he escapes and runs away.
- Ask the Vet for calming medication. Studies show perscribed medication helps 70% of dogs react less! (Herbal and pheromones only help 30% of dogs)
- Don’t let your dog off a lead with fireworks around, it simply isn’t worth the risk if they bolt and go into flight mode. Keep them inside as much as possible on these nights as this will dampen the noise.
- Never over react, even if your dog is really frightened, shaking or running about he does not need you losing the plot too. Remain calm and positive at all times. Keeping very reactive dogs on a lead with you inside, can also be a massive help as it is a direct line to something safe, calm and stable.
- Never shut your dog into his den or safe place. This could cause him to panic and feel trapped. Instead leave it open for access at all times.
- Do not be cross with your dog, even if he barks or has an accident. As we are the more intelligent animal it is up to us to understand and think of ways round these problems, not the other way around!
If you have a dog that is scared of fireworks act as soon as possible with training. Prevention really is better than cure, don’t leave it until the last minute.
Get a Firework CD (or use a smart TV) and follow all the steps to desensitise your dog over weeks or months! This is the best formula for actually getting him over it, rather than masking the problem.
You can also prepare for the night by following all of the Do’s and Don’t’s above.
If you’re really stuck, seek the help of a professional behaviourist.
What are you planning to try this year with your dog?