If we’re honest, I think most of us would admit to the thrill a firework brings when it flashes across the sky. Massive lightshows igniting the heavens, followed by the bang and crackle, and finally that slight burning smell. It can be exciting for us humans-as long as it is done safely. We have the benefit of knowing what fireworks are, and of what to expect. And even if a local firework does go off when we’re not expecting it, it may startle us, but we instantly recognise what has happened, and our initial fright is put to rest.
Baby you're a firewoof
This is not the case with our dogs.
Dogs do not enjoy fireworks, and in fact research carried out on behalf of Dogs Trust Ireland found that 52% of dog owners describe their dogs as being affected by fireworks and bangers.
There are many reasons for this. The most obvious is that dogs have far better hearing than humans, so a loud noise to us, will be more extreme to their sensitive ears. Neither do they have the capacity to rationalise what it is that they are hearing. They don’t know what a firework is. They just hear a loud sound-or repeated loud sounds, and have no idea what is the cause.
Many dogs will also fear thunder, however thunder is part of nature, and there will be certain smells and changes in the atmosphere that animals can sense beforehand, that will help them prepare. Fireworks give no such warnings.
Many rural boarding kennels will be booked up the week of Halloween, because worried dog owners want to shelter their dogs from the inevitable racket. Its such a shame that this has to happen, and we implore people not to use fireworks, due to the avoidable stress it will cause to our dogs-and not just dogs, but cats, horses, birds and other wildlife, all of which have shown signs of stress after exposure to fireworks and bangers.
No Firequackers, Please!
But what to do? We are confident that most of our blog’s readers will not be the ones actively setting off the fireworks, so our message above may seem like preaching to the choir.
And most people will not be able to send their dogs to rural kennels for the Halloween period. So how can we help keep our dogs nice and calm during the season?
1-Keep them inside
While most of our dogs live indoors with us, there are still many dogs that will sleep in kennels and runs outdoors. We would recommend that if fireworks are an issue in your area you take them indoors. Apart from masking the sounds, they will also be more secure. It is not unusual for panicked dogs to jump over high fences that normally secure them.
2-When inside, distract them
Play a game with them, give them some enrichment-watch our video in Clever Paws for some enrichment tips. Don’t leave them alone while fireworks are going off, give them comfort, but interact with them in a calm and confident manner.
Fireworks and bangers are an after-dark activity, so make sure your dog has had a big walk while the sun is still up. A tired dog may even sleep through the ruckus.
4-Time to Fort Up
Find an area of the house that is internal and partially insulated from the outside nosie. Why not build them a doggy den (Instruction for these can be found on Constructive Paws). Doggy dens are great because they make your dog feel nice and secure, and the blankets can make great sound insulators.
And why not turn on the radio for them, or the television. These will be familiar sounds to your dog, and if you make them slightly louder than usual, it can drown out the nasty racket from outside.
Stressed dogs may lose their appetite, so it might be an idea to feed your dog early, so they won’t go hungry.
Be very careful when opening your front door as a nervous dog may quickly dart outside. If possible, you could even build your doggy den with one door between them and the front door, so you won’t have to worry when answering.
7-Microchip and Collar
This is very important. All dogs should be microchipped and wear and ID tag, but if you’ve put this on the long finger, you’ll need to sort this out yesterday. If the worst happens, and your dog does skedaddle due to stress or worry, if they can be traced to you, getting them home will be far easier. Please please please get this done asap.
Be Dog Smart
The last piece of advice we wish to pass on, is one of safety, not just for your dogs but for you and your families also. Our education team have frequently advocated for dogs to be left alone when they are sleeping and eating, and we will reiterate these points once again here, but if your dog is feeling nervous of fireworks, this advice is more important than ever. Nervous dogs may behave differently, and will certainly be more on edge than normal. If they do find a quiet spot to rest in-such as the aforementioned doggy den, leave them be. Certainly, keep an eye on them, but respect their process-and above all, keep an eye on any children in your house, and ensure that they will also be abiding by this important rule.
If you are still worried about your dog during this season, it may be an idea to get a check up with your local vet, and they can give you some advice tailored to your dog.
Stay safe out there hound dogs