How to keep your dog calm during fireworks
To comfort or not to comfort, that's the question.
Many people associate fireworks with festivities and fun. But, for dogs, fireworks can be a traumatic experience repeating itself every year. It is not uncommon for dogs to become anxious, sometimes even panicky, when suddenly there's a furore of explosions and bright colours outside.
In an optimal dog world, fireworks would not exist. Still, as long as they exist, dog owners must do everything they can to help their dogs remain calm.
This article provides with you our best tips for dealing with dogs during fireworks.
1: Shield the dog
The first tip is to shield the dog from the fireworks, which, in practice, means keeping it indoors. Do not take your dog out for a walk just when the fireworks are raging - in the worst-case scenario; your dog will be so scared it will panic and run off. Instead, keep your dog indoors, preferably in the most soundproof room of the house, and as far away from windows as possible. Make sure the dog has a safe and comfortable place to relax, such as a dog bed.
If you know when the fireworks are supposed to start, it is a good idea to walk the dog in advance. A dog with a lot of excess energy is more likely to be stressed than a tired dog.
2: Gradual exposure
By downloading audio recordings of fireworks (you can also find videos on YouTube), you can control the fireworks and gradually expose your dog to the sounds.
Play the sounds on a speaker while you behave normally. It would help if you did not react to the sounds because if you do, the exercise loses its purpose. So instead, play the sounds and do what you usually do, whether it's cleaning, cooking, playing, or watching TV.
Just make sure you do not play it on a loud volume - adjust the volume to the point where the dog hears it, but low enough for it not to become stressed. You may also want to give your dog a treat so that in the future, it will associate the sounds with something positive. Then, when the dog shows signs of being comfortable with the sounds, you can gradually increase the volume each time.
3: Play music or white noise
If there is complete silence before the fireworks start, there is a good chance your dog will react negatively to the sounds. A trick that often works is to replace the sound of explosions with other sounds.
For example, you can turn on the TV or radio or a playlist with soothing music. Research has shown, among other things, that dogs react positively to classical music.
4: Yes, you can and should comfort the dog
There's a myth that dog owners should not comfort their dog when it is anxious. The argument has been that the owner will intensify the dogs' anxiety by confirming it has something to fear.
But recent research has shown that this is wrong.
If your dog is scared and turns to you for comfort, you should comfort it. The key lies in how you do it. For example, suppose you show signs that you are stressed due to the dog's anxiety and choose to comfort the dog by speaking brighter and cuddling feverishly. In that case, the dog may perceive this as if you, too, are afraid. Then consolation works against its purpose. However, if you speak calmly and use slow movements when you comfort, it can have a calming effect on the dog.
If you implement these tips, the chances are high your dog will cope with fireworks better in years to come.