Mark Vette – Internationally renowned Animal Behaviourist, Educator, Author and TV personality

Whiz, bang, pop – it’s Guy Fawkes season.

WHIZ, BANG, POP – HELPING YOUR DOG ON GUY FAWKES

When Guy Fawkes season rolls around, many pet owners are worried about the impact it will have on their pets if they have a dog or cat that’s scared of fireworks. Noise phobias are very common, it’s a problem we treat in our clinic and through our Dog Zen Virtual Dog School A LOT.  

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WHY ARE DOGS SCARED OF FIREWORKS? 

Generally a dog will become phobic of certain noises if they weren’t exposed to those sounds during their Formative Period as a puppy (between 2 – 4 months). Fireworks is a very common noise phobia, because often puppies don’t get a chance to hear these noises, unlike other common household sounds.  If you’re raising a pup, I recommend you play fireworks noises to them (starting at a low volume then slowly increasing) while using a clicker to click and reward them for being calm and accepting of the sounds. This will help build their resilience for real fireworks displays in future. If you don’t have a clicker, you can just give pieces of high value food (such as chicken or cheese), but a clicker does aid in the desensitisation process.

However, if your dog or cat is already fearful, here I’ve put together a few tips and tricks to get everyone ready for the night as comfortably as possible.


TIPS TO HELP YOUR PETS ON GUY FAWKES NIGHT

  1. Try take pets somewhere where there won’t be a loud fireworks display. Maybe a friend’s house out of the city for example.
  2. Act calmly. Pets pick up strongly on our emotions, so act calmly and happy, and don’t fuss over your pet too much. This can have a big influence on them – they’ll take their lead from you.
  3. Take active dogs for a big walk before the fireworks begin. If you tire them out, it can help them to relax. 
  4. Make a safe space for your pet in the house. Find a room that is relatively quiet and put their bed in there, with their blanket, some food and water. If your pet usually sleeps outside, I would recommend you bring them inside for the night.
  5. Play music or put the TV on. It’ll create noises that your pet recognises and will help block the noise of the fireworks.
  6. Make sure your pets have their favourite toys and some chewy treats to keep them entertained and distracted.
  7. If your pet looks distressed or anxious, stay with them – but still act calmly and don’t fuss too much to help reduce their anxiety levels. Use your clicker to switch them out of a fear state and into a learning state.
  8. Pets can feel safer hiding in a small space, such as under the bed, so don’t worry too much if they hide themselves somewhere in the house, unless they are extremely distressed. If necessary you can build a sound proof box for them.
  9. If you’ve had fireworks on your property, ensure you clean up thoroughly before your pets go back outside, as they can be harmful for them.

If you’re really worried, or your pet is seriously fearful about fireworks, it may pay to think about a longer term solution that can slowly desensitise your pets to the noise of fireworks in a non-stressful way. This is all covered in my Virtual Dog School.

I hope this helps your pets to feel a bit more comfortable when there are fireworks about!

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