How to cope with fireworks

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Fireworks season is fast approaching, so start preparing now to give your dog the calmest night possible.
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If you still have time before firework season begins you can work on letting your dog get used to the sounds of fireworks.

Get some treats ready and start by playing some firework noises very quietly. Slowly increase the volume until your dog is aware of the noise, but not stressed.

Stop at that volume and treat your dog every time they hear a firework. You can gradually increase the noise over several sessions, making sure to always start with a low volume to avoid spooking your dog unnecessarily.

Need to find a firework recording?The Dogs Trust have a free download you can find here.

On the night of the fireworks

Make a den. Provide somewhere covered and cosy for your dog to hide if they want to. Ideally this should be away from doors and windows to minimise the noise. Try to set this up in advance so that they have a chance to get used to it.

Close curtains & doors. Some dogs will find the loud bangs scary whilst others will not like the flashing lights. Keep curtains and doors closed to try to muffle the noise and keep a light on to reduce the impact of the flashing lights.

Put the TV on or play music. Try to mask the sound of fireworks by putting the television on or by playing music.

Walk before dark. Lots of dogs go missing each year who have been spooked by fireworks while out. Even if your dog has not shown any previous signs of being scared of fireworks, it is best not to take the risk.
Wait for a wee. Try to wait for a few minutes after the last firework has gone off to let your dog out for a toilet break. Be prepared with lots of tasty treats in case one takes you both by surprise.

Make it a training opportunity. If your dog is not showing signs of stress and will happily still take treats, use this as a time to get some training in. Every time a firework goes off your dog gets a yummy treat so that they start to associate the noise with good things.

Time for a treat? Again, if your dog is not feeling too stressed by the noise you might want to give them a long lasting treat. Chewing or licking are calming activities for dogs, so this can help focus them on being relaxed. You could try some wet food on a LickiMat.

If your dog does get stressed and comes to you for comfort please don't ignore them. Calmly sit with them and try not to get panicked yourself as your dog will feed off of your emotions.

You can not reinforce fear as it is an emotion, not a choice.

Your dog isn't choosing to be afraid so it can't decide to be fearful again in the future. However, a negative experience when already in a state of fear can cause the dog to become more fearful of the original trigger, e.g. fireworks.

Keeping interactions calm and positive will mean that you are not adding to your dog's fear.

If your dog has severe phobias it is always recommended to consult a qualified behaviourist.
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