Most dogs don’t like fireworks, in fact noise anxieties and phobias are very common. If your dog repeatedly: hides, or attempts to hide or escape, paces, circles or acts restless, rolls over onto their side or back, grooms excessively, suddenly freezes, pants, yawns, licks their lips excessively, drools or vocalises, even refuses to eat, then they could have a noise phobia.
Noise phobias can affect dogs of any age, breed, gender or neutering status. However, herding breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs and Border Collies seem to be more susceptible as well as young and elderly dogs too.
What causes it?
Nobody is really sure what causes a noise phobia, but we do know that dogs can either inherit the condition, or develop it after a traumatic experience. Dogs with fearful temperaments are also more likely to be “sensitive” to noises.
Interestingly, if your dog has a true noise phobia then he or she is likely related to a dog who also suffers.
How can you help?
- Avoid triggers: Noise phobic dogs should not be brought to firework displays in the hope that they’ll get used to it. It will only intensify their fears. Keep your dogs safe and warm at home.
- Mutt Muffs: Consider teaching your dog (in a positive way), to wear ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones, such as Mutt Muffs.
- Music and TV: Playing competing noise from the TV/radio, or using white noise can help. Be sure not to play it so loud that it worsens the problem.
- Close the doors and windows. Make sure all blinds, shutters, and curtains are shut during a firework event.
- Never punish: Shouting or punishing will only make things worse, potentially causing aggressive behaviour.
- Create a safe haven: Gather your dog’s blankets, cushions and one or two familiar toys in a quiet area that your pet enjoys spending time in. If you think your dog will want to escape to this place during a firework event, then settle them there before the fireworks start.
- Medication: In extreme cases your vet may prescribe anxiolytic medication to aid treatment and minimise suffering. The goal is to reduce fears, not to mask them and they should only be used in combination with a behaviour modification plan outlined by your vet.
- Anxiety Wrap: There is no evidence to show that anxiety wraps work, however, wearing an anxiety wrap won’t cause harm if your dog enjoys wearing it.
- Comfort: Stay at home or have someone stay with your pets during a firework event. Stroke your dog using long, firm, reassuring massage strokes and if your dog comes to you for reassurance, firmly holding and even leaning into them can help. Release them if they struggle.
- Play CDs of firework sounds: Desensitisation and counter conditioning to sounds from a CD can help. Essentially, they get your dog used to the sound of fireworks from a CD at a volume that doesn’t provoke a full blown fearful or panic reaction. You will gradually work your way through a programme until your dog perceives the sound of fireworks as being a good thing!
Above all, stay calm and enjoy celebrating together with your dog, whatever the event.