Keeping Dogs Calm During Fireworks
Fireworks can be terrifying for dogs and distressing for their owners. Although it is very common, fear of fireworks can affect different dogs in different ways. Some show many outward signs, while others suffer in relative silence, with subtle signs.
Signs of Stress
- Tense face, wide eyes and/or ears back
- Rapid (panicky) panting
- Alerting to every sound, sometimes with excessive barking
- Trying to get into dark enclosed or small spaces
- Digging in corners or under stairs
- Seeking reassurance from owners
- Staying very close or not wanting to be touched
- Ignoring offers of treats or games
- Very quiet or very excitable
- Loss of toilet control if left alone or too frightened to go outside
How to Help
- Be prepared - Ideally desensitisation and counterconditioning should be done months before fireworks begin, so that your dog is less stressed when the time comes. Click here to download your free adaptil desensitisation e-book. However, there are still things you can do to support your dog on the night.
- Build a den – Create a cosy retreat for sensitive dogs by covering a table or crate with blankets, leaving a small entrance. Place it in a quiet spot your dog prefers, like behind furniture or under stairs. Encourage them to use it by offering treats and chews inside regularly.
- Pheromone support – Plug in an ADAPTIL® Calm Home Diffuser which will diffuse a comforting pheromone into the room to promote a feeling of safety that your dog will really appreciate.
- Keep them away from the ‘bang’ – Keep your dog inside when it goes dark. Walk them earlier in the day while it is still light. Close all curtains, windows and doors. Turn on the radio/TV loud enough to mask the noise. Create a ‘happy’ atmosphere by being relaxed, playing games, offering treats and avoiding getting cross with your dog.
- Stay around – Try not to leave your dog home alone as this will only increase their feeling of unease.
- Be supportive – If your dog gets worried by a bang and comes to you for support, offer genuine affection without being too sympathetic. Keep the mood light and be fun and light-hearted rather than showing too much concern that may communicate that you are worried too. As soon as your dog has calmed a little, try to distract them into an easy game with a toy or into using their nose to find a treat.
- Safety measures – To remove the risk your dog from getting spooked walk and have toilet breaks earlier in the day to avoid unexpected fireworks. Ensure your garden fencing and gates are secure to prevent your dog escaping if they are outside when fireworks occur.
Keeping Cats Calm During Fireworks
Cats can also be afraid of fireworks and other loud noises but are less likely to show obvious signs than dogs or to seek reassurance from their owners. A big problem for cats during firework season is the changes to the environment or routine which may make it difficult for them to go outside as much as normal.
Signs of Stress
- Hiding away
- Less interaction with you
- Vertical scratch marking
- Spraying/peeing on objects in the home
- Over or under eating
- Excessive grooming
- Any change in your cat’s normal behaviour
How to Help
- Be prepared - For cats, the goal is to familiarize them with noises without making them completely fearless. Cats need to keep away from things that make loud noises when out to prevent injury. For kittens, teach them to move away from them by playing the noise, then leading them away to be fed in another room, or play the noise outside then bring them inside to be fed (ensure the noise is just loud enough for them to alert to it rather than so loud that it scares them into running off).
- Hiding places – make sure they have comfortable beds in places where they feel safe and can retreat to. Sometimes cats like to get up high to feel safer. Providing igloo beds or cardboard boxes safely positioned in elevated places can help.
- Do not punish – make sure home is a sanctuary where your cat is never told off or threatened.
- Pheromone support – plug in FELIWAY® Optimum diffuser to deliver serenity messages, helping your cat feel comfortable and secure at home. FELIWAY® Classic Spray can be used in addition on targeted areas throughout the home, e.g., blankets, bedding and in cat carriers.
- Keep them away from the ‘bang’ – in the run up to firework nights, feed at a set time a few hours before it gets dark to encourage your cat to come in before the fireworks start. Make sure all windows, doors and flaps are kept shut until the next day to keep your cat safely at home. Play the radio/TV loud enough to mask the noise.
- Provide support – if you have a good relationship with your cat, they will value your presence and feel safer when you are at home even if they don’t ask for attention or like to go into another room.
- Ensure they are micro-chipped – in case they get panicked by fireworks when out and run away.
- Provide a litter tray – indoors during fireworks so they can comfortably be kept indoors even if they usually toilet outdoors. Keep away from food dishes and clean regularly. Provide one per cat plus one spare.
*PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report 2022.
Written by: CEVA (Guest Author)