Firework season in the UK consists of Bonfire night, New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, however, fireworks on private property may be set off all year round. Remember dogs have acute hearing and are far more sensitive to sounds than humans. These sudden bangs and flashes may be seen as a threat which causes them anxiety and stress and they may react in many different ways such as running away, hiding, barking, panting, trembling etc. So how can you prepare your dog for fireworks, firstly it is never a good idea to take your dog to a fireworks display as a mixture of bright lights in the sky, crowds and loud bangs can be very detrimental to your dog.
So, what can you do, as a responsible pet owner, to help prepare your dog during the firework season?
If they were exposed to enough noises when they were young they may have learnt that fireworks are not a threat. Other dogs are just very easy going and laid back and they are not affected by the loud noises but for the ones that are sensitive and afraid one way to try and prepare and help them is to find a recording of fireworks, for example on YouTube, and start playing the sound quietly when your dog is relaxing making sure your dog hardly notices it at first.
If they do, then you have the volume set too high so turn it down. Build up to playing the sounds for five minutes at a time, a few times a day. (Please bear in mind that you should only start preparing them in this way when it is not fireworks season as it will take time for them to slowly get used to the sounds and a sudden burst of fireworks would eliminate any good done at this stage).
Increase the volume gradually making sure your dog is relaxed and calm. Continue increasing until the sounds are at a moderate level.
Once your dog is comfortable with the sounds, we would suggest that you introduce a food filled toy straight after. They will learn that firework sounds mean a tasty treat!
This may take several weeks or several months to achieve, depending on your dog but keep going until your dog is comfortable with the fireworks sound.
If you notice that your dog stops eating when the firework sound is on or other behaviours are shown to indicate that your dog is concerned, reduce the volume to a rate they were last comfortable. Remember all dogs are individual and will progress at different rates taking a step back before you go forward again will only help your dog for the big event.
It is important to remember that on the day real fireworks may be louder and still startle your dog, so find a room in which your dog is comfortable and draw the curtains or close the shutters and muffle the sound with a TV or Radio.
When preparing your dog for firework season remember to follow the above advice only when there is no risk of real fireworks going off. The advice above may not be suitable for all dogs, even if they are new to fireworks. Some dogs are particularly sound sensitive so talk to your vet or a dog behaviourist for advice.