My Dog Is Scared Of Fireworks. What to do?
The festive season for the win! I bet the absolute majority of people would agree.
Pyrotechnics is something that is still very widely used while celebrating New Year, the 4th of July and other occasions. However, the public constantly debates whether fireworks are actually a good means of celebration. Pollution, scared newborns, frustrated dogs, injuries… It all comes with the most astonishing light shows in the sky.
What about the fireworks sounds impact on dogs? Dogs have sharper hearing compared to humans. They can catch quieter as well as higher sounds. As an example, in the best-case scenario, a human hears a sound of 2000 Hz, while a dog can do 8000 Hz. Imagine, how disturbing the sounds of the fireworks may be for them!
Naturally, dogs have very different fear expressions. The most common ones are aimless and repetitive pacing, circling, and desperate attempt to hide, bark, and dig. It could very well be whining, panting, trembling, or salivating. Body language can say a lot. Even keeping the tail between the legs and having the ears set back is a sign that your dog may be feeling stressed.
In this post, we’ll share some tips on:
What to do if fireworks display while you’re walking outside with your dog
How to get your Italian Greyhound used to the fireworks sounds
How to keep your dog calm during those couple of minutes of pyrotechnics show.
The post is for Italian Greyhound owners but it’s very well applicable for all dog breeds.
51% of iggy owners say their iggys’ are not comfortable with fireworks
According to The Kennels Club (UK) statistics, almost 50% of dog owners claim their dogs have a firework fear (source: TheKennelsClub.org.uk, 2022). We ran a survey on social media and asked iggy owners about the same thing. The scope of the survey is too small to be accepted as well-grounded research. However, we found that 51% of owners have iggies who are afraid of fireworks to some extent. 29% claimed the fear is huge, whereas 49% are the lucky ones whose iggies don’t care about the fireworks at all. So… Basically, this is very consistent with The Kennels Club data.
How does the fear of fireworks develop?
Phobia for sounds can develop anytime in a dog’s life. Even though your Italian Greyhound feels casual about fireworks, a negative experience can turn the tables in a blink of an eye. If a firecracker pops nearby while your iggy is happily sniffing around, this could be a game-changer. Unfortunately, there's not much to do about it.
Anyhow, it’s always easier to prevent damage rather than fix what’s already broken. The fear of fireworks, thunderstorms or any other sudden and loud sounds is a very common issue for dogs. Thus, preventing all the aforementioned sounds is crucial while your dog is in a puppy phase. That is a part of early socialisation.
Even though there were no proactive actions taken in the early life of your dog, not all is lost. More to it, fear of sounds depends on dog by a dog!
It’s important to how the first encounter with the fireworks or any other sudden sounds goes. Will it scare your iggy? Will the sounds be somewhere outside while your dog is in a safe zone at home? Or will they happen nearby during a walk outside? How will you react? Would you grab your doggo, panic and run or would you keep it all positive and shower your dog in the pool of treats?
All those things matter. So, be ready when it comes. The biggest risk is during the festive season. Then the fireworks are not only going off on New Year’s Eve but days or even weeks before or after.
How to prepare for unexpected fireworks when walking outside:
Always walk your dog on a leash if there’s any risk the firework could go off. Even the calmest dogs can be unpredictable and run away once scared. If you own an Italian Greyhound, you must know how extra-sensitive they are. Don’t take this risk.
Make sure the collar or harness is tightly buckled and that your dog will not be able to get off of it if in a panic.
Have your contact details engraved on a collar. More to it, if your dog has a microchip, be sure to update the contact details in it. Better safe than sorry!
Always have valuable treats in your pocket. Even if you hear fireworks coming off somewhere far away, cheerfully feed some treats to your dog. Having this done often will build the association that sudden sounds mean treats! This will not save you if your dog gets in panics immediately after a sudden sound. But hey - it's worth trying it out with not-so-scared dogs!
Avoid the places where the firecrackers may come off. Small squares, urban areas or similar places are usually the spots where people play with pyrotechnics. I honestly don't get it...
Can you stop a dog from being scared of fireworks?
This may sound strange but… Have firework videos trending at your home! A sound phobia develops when there is a negative experience related to a sudden sound. If your iggy gets scared after an unexpected explosion nearby, it's likely that it'll record a negative memory. Imagine a situation - your dog is not a fan of being home alone and the loud fireworks start exactly then. What if your iggy hasn’t even heard fireworks before? He doesn’t know what that means and what to expect next. Not really the moment you’d like to experience again, isn’t it?
Your initial goal should be to minimize this negative experience. To do so, create as many positive associations to this as possible. Start playing fireworks videos in low tune for a couple of seconds at first. Praise your iggy and give some treats! That will start building a positive experience. It's like you're telling that there’s nothing wrong with those weird & disturbing sounds.
Raise the volume and length of the exercise every time but keep a close eye on how your dog feels. Keep the pace slow and celebrate when your dog doesn’t hide or express fear even when the sound of the firework is quite loud. Do not turn off the video if your dog doesn't feel comfortable. Your goal is to train them to control their emotions, not to wipe them away. But again, keep it slow and take one step at a time out of comfort zone.
How to keep your dog safe & calm during fireworks?
Don’t leave your dog home alone. That’s a golden rule! If you know your Iggy gets stressed by the explosion sounds, do not leave him alone. Be there for them!
Create a small, safe & cosy space. It could be a beloved crate or a bed full of pillows and blankets. You know, what iggies love the most :)
Feed your dog with long-chew treats. Get some that your iggy really loves. It may keep the attention focused on the treat rather than dreadful fireworks.
Turn the music and lights on and close the curtains. Try to mitigate the sounds of explosions as much as possible by creating a casual atmosphere at home.
Keep it positive & natural. Fun & joy are your keys to success! Dogs read our emotions as an open book. If you stress, they will too. Keep it calm & cheerful.
In extreme cases, consult with your vet about using light sedatives. There are many different levels of sound phobia. If your dog is extra-anxious and experiences extremely high stress, ask for a piece of professional advice. Currently, there are many non-chemical options, such as CBD drops or essential oils.
Do not ever punish your dog for being scared. Stressing out and feeling negative emotions from the person you love the most is the worst. Hug, kiss & praise your dog instead!
So! With all this being said, our team wishes you the best time with your dogs and the people you love the most. Celebrations are always great, let’s keep our most beloved dogs stress-free, too!
A disclaimer: If your dog has developed an uncontrollable phobia for sounds, please contact a professional trainer or a vet for professional advice.
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