Fireworks nights, whether it's Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night, the Fourth of July, Independence Day, New Year's Eve or any other celebration, can be a source of great anxiety for our canine companions.
Dogs have a more acute sense of hearing than humans, which can make the loud booms, crackles, and whistles of fireworks incredibly alarming to them. These events can be even more unsettling because they are entirely unpredictable from a dog's perspective.
While we might anticipate fireworks on specific holidays, our dogs perceive them as unexpected threats and in this blog, we’re diving in to help you understand why your dog might be afraid of fireworks, or other spontaneous, scary or novel events, plus we’re going to be bringing you some super safety tips, calming strategies and dog-friendly solutions to help you have a stress-free and blissful Bonfire Night with your dog.
Understanding Your Dog's Fear of Fireworks
Fireworks are loud! Your dog has a more acute sense of hearing than you, so those loud booms, crackles, and whistles can be alarming.
You may expect fireworks on holidays like the Fourth of July, Bonfire Night, or New Year's Eve, but for your dog, it's just another day. Those firecrackers come without warning. The loud noises and flashing lights sound and look different each time. Plus, they come at random intervals, so your dog can't get used to them, nor should they have to.
The noise and unpredictability of fireworks can lead your dog to perceive them as a threat. This triggers their fight-or-flight response. Your dog may bark at the noises or try to run away and hide, or display other signs of anxiety such as restlessness, panting, pacing, and whining.
Depending where you live, fireworks can be inescapable on holidays like Independence Day or Bonfire Night. If these noises trigger your dog's flight response, they will try to run from the threat. Unfortunately, there's often nowhere to go, as your dog can still hear the loud booms indoors, preventing them from running away in fear.
Signs Your Dog Is Stressed, Anxious or Fearful of Fireworks
To understand your dog's anxiety during fireworks, it's essential to recognise the signs they exhibit. Did you know that dogs who display fear responses to noises will have an emotional response, a physiological response, and a behavioural response?
The behaviour they choose may be very obvious or it may be more subtle. Every dog will have its own particular coping strategy. Watch out for:
- Restlessness and vigilance
- Seeking out people
- Trying to escape
- Hiding and cowering away
- Scratching doors
- Destructive behaviour
- Toileting in the house
- Tummy and toileting troubles (A-OK9 to the Rescue!)
- Lip licking and yawning
Understanding Your Dog’s Stress Bucket
Some dogs are very aware, vigilant and notice every little thing, while other dogs kind of plod along and let the world pass them by. You may have noticed that there are certain events, sights, sounds or smells that are particular triggers for your dog.
So what’s going on? Your dog perceives the events of the world around them through their senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell). Their brain then responds physiologically and emotionally.
The physiological response causes the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol and, in turn, adrenaline. These stress hormones build up and fill your dog’s metaphorical stress bucket.
Just the same way as we do, dogs have stress thresholds. We like to represent this as a bucket. Your dog’s bucket might be big or small. The hole in the bottom of the bucket which allows it to empty might be big or small.
Many things pay into your dog’s bucket – excitement (positive stress), scary things (negative stress), pain, itchiness, andgastrointestinal issues are just some of the common bucket-fillers.
Some things will pay larger amounts into the bucket, some smaller amounts. Some bucket fillers are obvious, like a trip to the vet or a super exciting game of chase, but some things that might not even register with you, such as strange smells or noises, might be contributing to your dog’s stress bucket without you even realising it. If your dog is fearful of fireworks, they will pay hugely into your dog’s bucket.
Being aware of your dog’s bucket and knowing how to keep it as empty as possible is important in all aspects of life but will be especially key in the lead-up to a stressful event such as firework night when you know that your dog’s bucket is going to be extra full.
Natural Calming Ways To Help With Your Dog's Fear Of Fireworks
To help empty your dog’s bucket, you need to lower the stress chemicals in your dog’s system, so consider using natural calming solutions like ourCalm-K9 superfood supplement. It's specially designed to support your dog's calmness and relaxation, so it's a must-have during fireworks season!
Calm-K9 contains high-quality natural ingredients – made with mood-boosting Tryptophan, Passiflora and Lemon Balm and a gut-supporting probiotic and
L-glutamic. Simply add to your dog’s food once a day to help break down cortisol and help your dog remain calmer.
You can combine the Calm-K9 with your dog's food and spread onto aK9-Calm Mat to achieve new levels of great behaviour through the naturally calming power of licking and enrichment!
THE BENEFITS OF USING A K9-CALM MAT TO LOWER YOUR DOG’S STRESS AND ANXIETY
Emotional Regulation:The act of licking or engaging with the mat can soothe your dog and help them cope with stressful situations.
Mental Stimulation:Enrichment activities, like using the K9-Calm Mat, keep your dog mentally engaged and prevent boredom, which can lead to anxiety.
Physical Relaxation: The repetitive licking motion can have a calming effect similar to meditation in humans, reducing stress levels.
Easy to Use: Simply spread your dog's favourite treat, like their raw or wet food, dog-safe peanut butter or yoghurt, onto the mat, and let them enjoy the tasty challenge.
Use Enrichment Activities to Relieve Stress and Calm Your Dog
Enrichment activities are extremely powerful in helping your dog achieve a calm, zen state because they can trigger the release of dopamine in your dog's brain, so prepare lots of tasty, calming enrichment activities like lick mats, stuffed bones and kongs, snuffle mats, puzzle toys and more in advance to give your dog as fireworks are happening - and in the days leading up to the events to help your dog keep their bucket as empty as possible.
Stress-Free Strategies To Help Your Dog Cope with Fireworks On Bonfire Night!
As Bonfire Night approaches, be well-prepared for any situation that might arise during this potentially frightening time with these dog-friendly fireworks tips. Fireworks can be incredibly distressing for dogs, so it's crucial to have a plan in place.
Prepare ahead of time by having a plan in place. Know what to do if your dog becomes extremely anxious or panicked. Having a strategy can make all the difference.
CHECK ID AND MICROCHIPS:
Don't forget to ensure your dogs have proper identification, including collars with tags and updated microchip information. This precaution is essential in case they become scared and attempt to escape.
STAY WITH YOUR DOG AND KEEP THEM INSIDE:
Even if your dog spends most of their time outdoors, bring your dog inside before firework displays (well in advance) to prevent them from running away due to fear.
Direct supervision is essential in preventing injury or escape. Don't leave your dog alone as your presence can offer comfort and reassurance during this frightful time. Secure all doors and windows, and close blinds and curtains to minimise the impact of noise and flashes.
If you are unable to supervise your dog on the night, consider making alternative arrangements. Ask a responsible, knowledgeable person to dog-sit or consider boarding your dog with a good and reputable boarding kennel away from fireworks locations so they will be safe.
CREATE A COMFORT ZONE:
Set up a cosy space with their favourite toys and Calm-K9, where your dogs can feel safe and relaxed. Use white noise machines, calming music, Taiko Drums or even a loud movie on TV to mask the loud bangs, whistles and booms. Be sure to turn this on well before the fireworks start - and rehearse in advance so you're not doing it for the first time on Bonfire Night.
PLAY TRAINING GAMES:
Training is absolutely essential, and yet we need to recognise it as one piece of an elaborate puzzle that is the living, breathing animal that we share our lives with, love and care for and, most importantly, want the very best quality and quantity of life for.
Alongside your training, brain well-being and gut wellness are crucial parts of this picture. When the cycle of training-brain-gut wellness isn’t working in synchrony, it impacts the results you see from your training. It also impacts how optimistic your dog is.
For your dog to cope with everything life throws at them, including stressful events such as a night of fireworks or even thunderstorms, they need to be optimistic about the world that they live in.
This means playing training games to prepare your dog for the situation before the situation occurs, with confidence-building games and games that work on building a positive association with sounds (positive pairing).
Activities and games that will help your dog overcome the stress, fear and anxiety that comes with fireworks include Noise Box and Novelty Scatter-Feeding. These games make novel, unpredictable events fun and enjoyable. Help your dog worry about nothing!
You can find out more about these novelty and noise-busting training games, general safety tips and other support options for your dog, and so much more in ourFREE Guide to Dogs & Fireworks eBook.
With preparation and the right plan in place, some good calming strategies and a specially formulated supplement designed to help your dog navigate the stress of daily life (and spontaneous scary events like fireworks), you can also help your dog navigate Bonfire Night, or any other fireworks night with confidence and ease.
Remember that your positive energy can make a significant difference in reassuring your dog during these potentially distressing events. Give your dog the support they need and let them enjoy a stress-free holiday and fireworks season. You got this Wellness Warrior!