dog hiding in the cloth

Pets and fireworks season

Pets and fireworks season

As much as 40% of the UK dog population is said to be fearful of fireworks – so what can we do to ensure that firework season is as stress-free as possible for our four-legged friends?

What are the signs of an anxious dog?

So, first things first, how do you know if your dog is stressed-out by fireworks? Here are our top ten telltale signs of anxiety in dogs:
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Yawning
  • Racing heart rate
  • Pacing
  • Shaking and shivering
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Destructive behaviour
  • Hiding

Why do fireworks scare dogs?

Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans, with the ability to hear frequencies up to 45,000Hz (compared to a mere 20.000Hz in people). They can also hear sounds at a much greater distance than us. This very acute hearing, combined with the sheer unpredictability of the whistles, whooshes, bangs and pops of fireworks, can make firework night a pretty uncomfortable and stressful experience for some of our canine friends.

How to help pets during fireworks

Some pets will sail through fireworks season without a care in the world but those of a more anxious disposition may find life a bit trickier. Fortunately, there is lots that you can do to help keep your pet calm during fireworks.

  1. Exercise

Make sure your pooch gets plenty of exercise earlier on in the day and definitely before dusk. Being tired won’t stop your pet being anxious, but it will help them to stay a little calmer if they start to become fearful. Where possible, make any changes in routine a few days before you anticipate fireworks.

  1. Indoors before dusk

Make sure your pet is safely indoors before dusk. Ensure all potential escape routes are closed to prevent your dog or cat running off if they get scared – check all windows and doors and lock cat-flaps. Ensure your garden is securely fenced so you can safely allow your pet out to toilet if necessary. If in doubt, keep them on a lead.

  1. Bring hutches indoors

Don’t forget your small pets and consider bringing them indoors. Covering the hutch with a blanket can help reduce stress.

  1. Close the curtains

Close the curtains and turn on the lights – the visual stimulation of flashing lights will be enough to cause anxiety in some pets.

  1. Turn on the TV or radio

Turning on the TV can help to muffle firework noise.

  1. Safe space

Create a safe space for your pet to hide in. They may choose a spot themselves – under the stairs or beneath your desk for example. If not, you can create a hiding place for them. If they are crate trained this can work well, or how about under the kitchen table? Cover the den area with a blanket to help block out the light and fill it with their bed, a favourite toy and maybe a familiar smelling item of your clothing.

  1. Stay calm and behave normally!

It is super important to lead by example and remain calm and unfazed by fireworks! It may be tempting to give your pooch lots of reassurance but believe it or not that can do more harm than good. In your dog’s eyes, lots of attention from you is a reward for being anxious, reinforcing their view that being scared is the ‘right’ behaviour. In the long run this is likely to make your dog’s fears worse.
Equally, never tell your dog off for their fearful behaviour, however frustrating it may seem. They will not understand why you are cross, and you are likely to increase their fear surrounding fireworks.

  1. Distraction

Distraction tactics can help with some dogs. Playing with a favourite toy with your pet, or giving your dog a treat-filled toy such as the KONG - Classic Dog Chew Toy - Toys - Accessories - Dogs ( may be useful to take your pet’s mind off things. Don’t try and force them to play though and leave them alone if they are happier hiding away in their den.

  1. Pheromones

Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is a copy of the pheromone released by a nursing mum to reassure her puppies. These chemical messages provide a strong feeling of security and can work well in all ages of dog. Help your dog to get through firework season with Adaptil For Dogs | Pheromone Diffusers, Refills, Collar & Spray ( For our feline friends try Feliway For Cats | Pheromone Diffusers, Refills and Spray (

  1. Speak to your vet

If your pet is struggling with their firework fears, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. They will be able to offer advice and may prescribe medication or anxiety-relieving supplements to help in the short term. They can also refer you to a pet behaviourist for further help and support.

Can I take my dog to fireworks?

Even if your pooch seems oblivious to the noise and excitement of firework night, they are much safer at home. Being up close to the whooshes and bangs is likely to be too much for sensitive doggy ears.

How to deal with fireworks and pets: the long-term

We have looked at how to deal with a worried pooch or a flustered feline on bonfire night but how about the longer term? Wouldn’t it be better to try and reduce your pet’s fears as well as helping them to get through the short-term stress?
Desensitising is the key to managing firework fears in the longer term. Any training or desensitising program needs to be started 3-6 months in advance of firework season and better results may be achieved under the guidance of a qualified pet behaviourist. Check out the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors for lots of useful information APBC - Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.
The aim of desensitization is to gradually expose your pet to firework noise to help them overcome their fears. There are various resources to help with this, either in CD format or as a downloadable resource.
Let’s take a look at the basics of noise phobia densitisation.

  1. Find a quiet safe space where your pet is relaxed. Choose a time when your pet is calm but not sleepy. Leave the door open so your pet can get away from the noise if they need to.
  2. Play the recorded firework noise starting at a low volume. After playing the noise, reward your pet’s calm behaviour with a small food treat. Gradually your pet will start to associate fireworks with something positive.
  3. Increase the volume at which you play the recording very gradually and only at a pace that your pet is happy with. Be sure to continue with plenty of praise and food rewards when your pet is calm. Eventually you will be able to play the recording at a volume that mimics that of real fireworks.
  4. Be patient! Desensitisation may take weeks or months.

Firework season can be a time of anxiety for pets but there’s lots that we can do to help. Found this article useful? Check out Going back to work; Dogs / Petwell Blog for more behaviour advice.
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