Fireworks may be fun and entertaining for humans. People look forward to firework displays during the New Year. For dogs, however, the loud and and unexpected boom of fireworks causes stress and anxiety.
Dogs having very keen senses make fireworks a more intense and startling experience. What dogs experience when startled by fireworks is the same kind of stupefied response people have when surprised by loud noises – rush of adrenaline, increase heart rate, and greater stress hormones at work throughout the body.
When startled, dogs tend to bark excessively, run and roam around not knowing what to do, or hide in fear. To keep dogs safe and calm during New Year when there are loud and colorful fireworks, here are five tips to make the New Year easier and happier for both the dogs and dog owners:
- Desensitize or condition. It always pays off to prepare, because as they say, prevention is better than cure. Prepare your dog for the loud bangs and booms of fireworks be desensitizing or conditioning the dog to the sound of fireworks. This process takes time, about several weeks prior to New Year. Play recorded sounds of fireworks at an increasing volume during different times of the day, especially and even during night time before sleeping. This will help the dog get used to the loud sound of fireworks, eventually minimizing the startle response.
- Communicate. Before, during and after the fireworks, send a calm and reassuring message to the dog, verbally and also especially through body language.
- Provide a safe and secured place and keep a close eye. It is an instinct of dogs, and in fact even humans, to move away from sources of discomfort, fear, and anxiety. Thus, dogs that get startled with the sound of fireworks tend to run away. Keep an eye on the dog and make sure it is wearing a fitting collar with proper identification. Provide enough, but not too spacious, enclosed area for the dog. Remove visual stimulation by closing the windows or curtains, for this helps in calming your dog.
- Distract. It is better that dog has company during the New Year. In the case that you really cannot, leave the dog with things and activities that it enjoys playing with and can keep itself busy with. Leave its favorite treats and toys accessible; these can help in distracting the dog away from the loud sound of fireworks.
- Move away. If time, resources, and logistical concerns permit, be in a place where there will be not much loud fireworks, or arrange to have the dog temporarily be in a place where there are no loud noises – may it be in a dog day care or at a friend’s home. It should be kept in mind, though, that if the place is unfamiliar to the dog, it is advisable to take the dog there a few times before the New Year, so it will not be a surprise to it and there will be less adjustment.
Dogs explore and experience the world through their keen senses. Although fireworks may be fun and entertaining for people, it may be a source of stress, fear, and anxiety for some dogs. You and your dog can have a happier New Year, by preventing and properly addressing a dog’s being startled by the loud banging and booming of fireworks.