Image of firworks going of and photos of a cat and dog hiding and a horse bolting. There is a caption "firwork season is coming take care of your animals

Fireworks and dogs

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by Erik Prins

21/10/2023

Some animals react badly to fireworks, it can be a good enough reason to try and escape the home.  Whilst fireworks create pleasure for many people, they can be the stuff of nightmares for our animals. Whilst it is difficult to control this human activity we can try to help our animals cope better with this form of entertainment. In this post, I will specifically talk about dogs but it does apply to other animals too.

The technique to help your dog is quite simple. I personally have used Alexa and asked it to play certain sounds which I knew my dog was scared of. This is not just fireworks, this can be other sounds and noises too, such as cars, children playing or gunshots. It is a step-by-step process where you make sure your dog ignores the sound. You start at a low volume and slowly increase the volume making sure your dog is ignoring the sound. If your dog does respond you need to take it down again. The best approach is to do the exercise short but frequently.

Images of Siri, alexa and other ways of using technology
Technology

Different technology

As mentioned above I use Alexa and YouTube, of course, there is Siri, there are websites such as BBC sounds or the Dogtrust, and there are even apps to allow you to practice with different sounds. You can also record a sound, for instance, one foster dog would react to the unwrapping of parcels or the crackling of crisp packages, I simply recorded those to use with the exercises. For those who don’t have Alexa, or Siri or use YouTube, you can still buy CDs with different sounds on them to help habituate your dog to noises.

Tale of caution

Whilst it is good to get started early. This technique is not foolproof or provides guarantees. I did these exercises with one of my Greyhounds. She would not react to the CD-recorded fireworks and she achieved a level of volume that was very high. When the New Year’s fireworks event arrived, and to my surprise she did react to hearing the fireworks. This made me wonder why is she reacting when she has not reacted to the sounds of the recorded fireworks. As I smelled the fireworks I realised there are a couple of areas we cannot replicate.

  • A dog can hear higher-frequency in sounds
  • They can smell so much better and the setting of fireworks creates specific smells.
  • The “explosion” of fireworks can be felt and dogs are more sensitive to this.

Because we cannot replicate these elements your dog may still respond to a noise. Having said this, I still view the exercises and habituation to the sounds as preferable to doing nothing. After all, even if the stress for the animal is reduced it is still a win. This was the case with our Greyhound who’s response was less severe following the training.  

Images showing 2 scared or worried dogs and two dogs seeking comfort
scared dogs

What to do if your dog(s) still respond

When my Greyhound responded to the fireworks. I made sure that I employed canine behaviour and non-verbal communication. Whilst she looked at me, I simply ignored her reaction, she soon put her head down and relaxed. Every time there was a big bang or loud noise she would look towards me but because I ignored her she also learned not to react.

Some dogs will get very spooked by the sounds and they may choose to hide under the sofa, bed, dining table or cupboard. The worst thing you can do is try to drag them from their hiding place. Remember this is where they may feel safe and is their preferred place.

You may be tempted to try and comfort your dog, by stroking them or talking to them. These reactions can potentially act as reinforcers of the behaviour displayed. It is best to follow their lead, if they hide, let them be. If they are lying down close to you simply don’t respond. However, if they are coming to you and desire cuddles, stroking etc, give them all the affection they are seeking.

If your dog displays severe reactions to noises, contact your vet or a (Provisional) clinical animal behaviourist to help you resolve the issue.

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About the Author

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Erik Prins

Hello, My name is Erik, I am a 3D (Dutch, Dyslexic, Diabetic), 55-year-old young man who lives with his wife, daughter and 3 Greyhounds in North Warwickshire. I volunteer as a dog trainer and run my own dog training and dog psychology business. I am proudly Dyslexic, please forgive my grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and you may be so lucky to experience my chaotic mind. I hope you will enjoy the content as it builds up over time.