We have some simple advice to help make fireworks less stressful for dogs this firework season, as well as some tips for longer term treatment of firework or loud noise fears.
On this page:
How to prepare your dog before fireworks begin
1. Speak to your vet well in advance
If your dog has a fear of loud noises, they may be able to help or offer a referral to a qualified behaviourist who can help tackle your dog's fear of fireworks.
2. Provide a safe hiding place
At noisy times around Bonfire Night and the rest of the firework season, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table.
You can build your dog a cosy den to give them somewhere to hide away.
3. Feed your dog before the fireworks begin
Once the fireworks start, they may become unsettled and not want to eat during the fireworks.
4. Walk your dog before dark
During the firework season, make sure your dog is well exercised and has had a toilet break well before the fireworks begin.
5. Try to settle your dog before the fireworks start
If your dog is in familiar safe surroundings, this can help them cope with the noise. Once the fireworks starts, it's best to let your dog decide what they want to do - play or hide away.
6. Make sure your house and garden are secure
During the fireworks fear may make your dog try to escape. You should close all the windows and curtains, turn the lights on and play the radio or TV to help drown out the sound of fireworks.
How to build a doggy den
A doggy den is a great way to help your dogs to feel safe and secure during fireworks season.
A den acts as a safe place for a dog to retreat where they feel comfortable and know they won't be disturbed. It's really easy to make and can be put together with things you already have.
Find out how >
How to help your dog during fireworks
1. Give your dog comfort if they seek your reassurance
Don't punish your dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks as this will intensify their fear.
You should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to your dog when they are afraid – interact with them calmly.
2. Don't leave your dog alone
Stay in the house with your dog during the fireworks period – if left alone, without your reassurance they may panic and this could result in an injury.
3. Let your dog hide away or play as they please
It may help to keep your dog busy indoors – play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep their mind off the noises.
However, if they just wants to hide away then don't force them to come out of their hiding place, allow them to stay where they feel safe. Never force a dog outside during fireworks.
Longer term treatment: What to do if your dog has a fear of fireworks or loud noises
If you think that your dog gets worried by loud noises, contact your vet to see if there's an underlying health problem first, and to help you find a qualified behaviourist. Your vet will also be able to discuss whether medication might be helpful.
Programmes of behaviour therapy recommended will vary for each dog, but may include the following elements:
- Establishing a consistent way for your dog to cope. This often involves teaching a dog to use a den to hide when they are worried. This might require you to gradually change your dog's 'coping' response away from one that relies on your attention so that they are more able to cope with loud noises if they occur when you're not home.
- Gradually teaching your dog that noises are not scary through a process called 'desensitisation and counter-conditioning'. This usually involves playing recorded versions of the scary noises, but starting at such a low volume that your dog is not worried by them. The volume and direction of sounds are changed over time, but so slowly that your dog does not show any signs of fear. The sounds should also be associated with something that they enjoy, such as high value treats or a game.
Sound Therapy for Pets
Take a look at our free sound based treatment programme for dogs, developed by pet behaviour therapy specialist. The desenitisation sounds include fireworks and thunder, as well as sounds to help socialise puppies and help dogs deal with the arrival of a new baby.
Find out more
Take a look at Dogs Trust Dog School's handy how-to guide, video and top tips for preventing a fear of loud noises!
How else you can help
Over half of the British Public think fireworks should be limited to public displays only to limit potential distress to animals, and over a third dislike fireworks due to their pets being scared. Attending a local organised display can help reduce the stress fireworks can cause pets.
If you do hold your own firework display, let your neighbours know well in advance, limit it to 30 minutes and opt for quieter, lower decibel fireworks.