An important step is to ensure the dog has a safe haven or den to retreat to in the home; an area that they feel secure in. Ideally this should be in an internal room that is easily accessible and away from windows. The den can be a place that the dog already uses and adapted to be as comfortable, dark and quiet as possible, or a manmade temporary option such as a cardboard box or crate. Preparing a den in advance allows the dog to get used to the area and accept it as a safe place. Whatever format of den is chosen it is also advisable to use towels and/or blankets to cover the area to dim the sounds and lights of the fireworks and ensure the dog has access to the den at all times (even when the owner is not at home).
The dog appeasing pheromone Adaptil® has been shown to reduce anxiety and help dogs cope with challenging situations, including firework events. Adaptil is easy to use and it is available as a diffuser, collar and spray. It reduces the intensity of the dog’s fear response and should be used alongside other measures to manage or treat sound sensitivities, such as building a den. Using an Adaptil diffuser or collar from October can help to combat any build up of anxiety the dog experiences in the run up to the fireworks event.
For support in a dog immediately before an expected firework event the collar or spray will start to provide support quickly. There are also nutraceutical options which can start to provide support quickly in these situations, such as Adaptil Express tablets which should be administered two hours before the expected fireworks. There are also anxiety wraps available which an owner can apply to the dog prior to the fireworks event. It is important to remember that a product’s ability to reduce fear responses may be reduced if the dog is already anxious.
Further tips for dog owners
- Ensure dogs are taken out for a walk/to the toilet before it gets dark to avoid the need to be taken out later during the fireworks
- Soothing or punishing the dog may increase the intensity of the experience or reward inappropriate behaviour. Instead consider distracting them with a chew, toy, puzzle feeder or a game. Having a meal before the fireworks start can also help as a dog may not want to eat during the event if they are too anxious
- Ensure the dog has access to their water bowl as anxious dogs can pant more
- Keep curtains closed, have the TV or music on and keep the dog company
- Dogs with a more severe reaction to noises should be taken to the vet, as it may be that they need medication in order to cope with the firework season
- Be aware that older dogs may find fireworks more challenging than they have before, as they can start to find changes to routine difficult. Alternatively, those dogs which start to develop hearing loss as they age can find fireworks easier to cope with.