Dog looking out the window at a firework display

Kirsten Dillon - Tips For Your Puppy's First Firework Night

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Firework season is right around the corner, and while it's a time of celebration for us, it can be a time of anxiety and fear for our furry friends. Our Animal Behaviourist and Canine Specialist, Kirsten Dillon, has shared her expert tips on how to habitualise your puppy to firework noises and make firework night as stress-free as possible.
Any loud, high-pitched sounds can potentially cause stress and/or fear responses in our puppies and dogs. Fireworks are one of the biggest culprits.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) states that approximately 45% of dogs, when in the presence of fireworks, exhibit signs of fear. The PDSA 2018 PAW report highlights that in the past two years, 51% of veterinary professionals recorded an increase in pet phobias, including the phobia of fireworks. Furthermore, 40% of dog owners (3.6 million dogs) reported their dogs suffered from fear of fireworks. 
So, what can we do? The best way to combat this is to gently habituate our dogs and puppies to firework noise long before November 5th or New Year’s Eve.
  1. Download firework noises to your phone – YouTube has many videos for this exact purpose.
  2. Play the sounds at a volume that doesn’t cause your dog to react fearfully. A smart speaker like Alexa or any Bluetooth speaker will work. Phones alone may not be loud enough. Feed them some treats or play a game in the presence of the noises.
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat in different locations around the house or garden.
  4. SLOWLY increase the volume of the firework noise over many sessions. Be thorough, making sure that your dog has the chance to get used to each level before moving on.
  5. ONLY move on if your dog is calm and not showing any of the following signs: lip licking, hiding/shaking, flat ears, tail tucked under,  trying to move away, not taking food, whining or barking.
  6.  Work towards a loud noise level and begin playing the noises randomly without showing your dog what you are doing. The real thing may be different, but at least it is not the first time your pup will hear startling, loud noises.
If your dog is already frightened by fireworks, make them a safe place in the house (usually wherever they choose is best). Put a soft bed or lots of blankets there, and spray liberally with a natural calming product; this will help mask the cordite smell, which may also be a trigger. Draw the curtains to block the flashes, only walk and offer the toilet during daylight. Use a puppy pad if need be, as this is better than the risk of frightening them.
Remember to give your pup as much love and reassurance as they want or need, offer a bone or something similarly natural and high value if they can eat it, and play some Reggae or Roald Dahl books.
Please don’t hesitate to ask your vet for short-term medication to help get your puppy or dog through this difficult period. There are some extremely good, safe medications out there for this very thing.
By Kirsten Dillon,
Animal Behaviourist & Canine Specialist