How do I calm my Dogs down during Fireworks season?

Well folks, it’s that time of year again.. Summer has been and gone, (quite abruptly if i may say so too!) the children are back at school & the Fireworks are being advertised already!

You may be one of the lucky Dog owners who has a Dog that doesn’t care about loud noises and bangs, thunder etc, and not had to give a second thought to Fireworks etc, or you may be a Dog owner that has owned Dog’s previously, and this time around started early on with getting your beloved pooch used to the loud noises like Fireworks or shooting (if you have a working Gundog).

Either way, please spare a thought for the thousands of NEW Dog owners, who may not have the experience of Dog’s not liking loud noises or Fireworks, or those owners who DREAD the Firework season, as it can mean months of misery and walking Dogs at different times to try and avoid being out and about when the Fireworks start..

As a Dog owner, and Dog Trainer myself, i have experienced Dogs who have had severe anxiety with both Thunder & Fireworks, and also owned Dogs who have not given a second thought to the noises associated with either Thunder or Fireworks.

How are my Dog’s with Thunder & Fireworks?

Firstly, i will tell you about a German Shepherd girl i had the pleasure of having in my life for approx ten years..( a rescued German Shepherd girl, her name was Bracken, who i originally fostered & went on to adopt, she was aged 10 months. I was her 4th owner.. can you believe it at such a young age having already had 3 owners? I loved to volunteer for that particular

rescue centre, and had not felt such a pull on my heart before.)  So, my experience with this Dog, Bracken, and Fireworks was one of initial caution. Though in hindsight, i need not have felt that way.  By the time we first had a Thunder Storm, with her living with us, she had settled in, and ensured that our other German Shepherd, an entire male, knew his place, and that he wasn’t getting any puppies with her. (she was spayed, but he kept trying bless him..) The Thunder was very loud, so i tried not to make a sound each time it Thundered & flashed with lightening, with it making me jump, as i knew that could possibly set Bracken off, her watching me.  Bracken was also keeping an eye on my other Dog, (named Max) to see how he was reacting.  Thankfully, he was as calm and chilled out as ever, he had a very placid, easy going nature to him.

The Thunder storm passed, without any problems, though i knew there may still be a slight chance she could react to the Fireworks, when Bonfire night/Fireworks time arrived.

And so October time arrived, and the local shops started to sell the dreaded Fireworks .. I knew the loud bangs would be starting at any point from then onwards.

When the Fireworks did start, it was constant bangs and loud booms, and because of where we lived at that time, within a street of houses in a large circle, the noises where constantly reverberating off each of the houses, so it seemed never ending.

I found my Dog Bracken, to be as laid back and placid with the Fireworks, as she was with the Thunder.  Thankfully.  She would carry on playing with Max or snoozing. Nothing appeared to phase her at all, and given her history prior to her living with us, this was a huge deal.  A true diva Dog.  Max was also a rescue German Shepherd, for want of a better phrase.  He came to live with me approximately 14 months old.  Horrible things had happened to him in his young life bless him, thankfully he ended up back with the breeder, and they contacted me to assess him..the rest is history and one of the best decisions of my life. Max bless him, was not deterred at all by any sounds.  Not Thunder, not Fireworks not even loud drilling work or jet planes.  I feel very strongly that he had a very calming impact on Bracken.  We never needed to use any calming remedies from the vet with either of them.  However, they may be of help to your Dog if you feel they are very anxious or frightened.

Sasha, a German Shepherd girl, i had the pleasure of owning.  Again, a rescue, for want of another phrase.  Sasha used to be a bit jumpy with traffic, though never had trouble with loud noises like Thunder or Fireworks.  Whether that was due to her having Bracken and my sprocker for company, i’m not 100% sure.  Sasha was a wonderful girl and she is missed dearly, sadly we only had her in our lives for a couple of short years.

Misty was a whole new ball game when it came to being afraid of Fireworks.  Yes, you guessed it, she was also a German Shepherd girl.. she was my very first German Shepherd, however, she was the most extreme around loud noises i have known to this very day.

Misty, whom i had from being approximately 9/10 weeks old, I don’t know why to this day,  to start off with, developed a very strong dislike of heavy rain.  It got to the stage where she would hide under the table to get away from the noise.  Now we never did anything, nor witnessed anything that may have triggered this reaction to the rain, and to this day i am perplexed by her behaviour.  Well, along side this aversion to heavy rain, one day we had a really bad Thunder storm.  Misty went berserk, I mean a whole new level of “get me away from this”.  It was sad to see.  She would try to open up doors to go and hide, and also try to go upstairs to the bathroom.. even blew her anal glands, nothing we tried ever alleviated her fear/phobia.  Then Fireworks started getting louder, and louder.  On one occasion in particular, i recall not being able to find her.  We looked all over the place, no Misty to be found.  All the time the Fireworks were booming away.  Can you guess where we found her? She was literally wrapped around the upstairs toilet.  I mean she ( a large German shepherd girl) was right behind the pipes and everything.  She was snug in there to say the least.  I was heartbroken.  I recall at the time, feeling a tad useless and upset as i didn’t know what to do for the best for her.  After a short while, i decided i would leave her in the bathroom..with the light on, so the flashes weren’t so prominent to her, and i fetched a radio up onto the landing area, to try and distract away from some of the Firework noise.  

The 2 Dogs i have the pleasure of having in my life as i type, are a German Shepherd male, #TakodaElsu,and a Sprocker male, #Breeze.  I have had both of these Dogs from being young puppies, seen the parents to both, and they have both got solid personalities. These 2 from the very beginning have been great with noises. 

What did i do with Takoda and Breeze? & what did i recommend clients do to get their Dog’s ready for Fireworks?

The best thing i have found to help get Dogs used to loud noises & bangs, are de-sensitisation / sound therapy CD’s, like this one here..click on the image to view more details. (and view the current price with Amazon)While Takoda and Breeze were very young, i had the loud noises playing in the background, and after a few hours, i would turn up the volume a little bit. I did this for a few days, then i started to play it while it was dark outside too. And i never drew attention to anything or even the Dog’s, i simply kept doing what i was doing.  Then i turned it up a tad more, and i had mentioned what i was doing to my neighbours, so they were aware of the noise for a little while. By now, if we had the door to the garden open, we could here the Firework noises out side..so we used this time to play with the Dogs and make it a pleasant association. (no, i don’t suggest playing with your Dog outside while the fireworks are going off..) We did this for approximately 4-5 days, and the last day and night, it was quite loud.  The Dogs didn’t pay any attention to it at all what so ever.. which = fantastic result!

When Bonfire night arrived (and New Year’s Eve) they were great, never flinched or whined. These noise Discs are brilliant.

The main points to remember, are to start as soon as you can, getting your Dog used to noises,  If you have a Dog which you have adopted, of course, let your Dog settle in and do things slowly.  Just make sure you give yourselves plenty of time, don’t start 2 days prior to Bonfire night, give yourselves and your Dog plenty of time.  Remember, the bangs aren’t just on the 5th of November.. they last so much longer now, and then there is New Years Eve.. and other festive celebrations

Check out my Top Tips For Dogs & Fireworks below..

How do I calm my Dogs down during Fireworks season?

Top Tips to help your Dog get through Fireworks season, Bonfire night & New years Eve

  1. IF your Dog gets really stressed, chat with your Dog’s Vet, they may prescribe something to help calm them down .  There are products on the market which use pheromones to help calm pets.  These are often a Plug – in type device or a Spray, or collar.
  2. Exercise your Dog before dark. (Sounds obvious, however we tend to take our routines for granted and it’s easy to forget.)  
  3. Close the curtains/blinds.  This may help to block some of the noise out, along with reducing the sight of the flashes from fireworks.
  4. If your Dog has a space he/she loves, away from the hustle and bustle of busy tea times, make sure they have a snug comfy place they can go IF they wish to.
  5. Routine – If you tend to have a routine, try to stick to it as much as possible. 
  6. Music/TV – you could play music or turn up the TV to help muffle the sounds
  7. If your Dog is stressed out by fireworks, DON’T leave them home alone.  Ask someone to pet sit for you, if you won’t be home.
  8. IF your Dog is scared of fireworks, try to avoid having fireworks at home. Maybe  consider going to an organised event..(if there is someone to look after your Dog of course.)  
  9. Make sure your pet is IDENTIFIABLE.  Make sure microchip details are kept up to date, especially mobile phone numbers, and also check details on any Identity tag on your pet’s collar to make sure they are still correct.  Just in case your Dog dashes out of the door.
  10. Try not to react to the loud noises yourself.  If your Dog is stressing, I find that by remaining calm and not paying attention to the noises helps to show that there is nothing to react to.

Remember, there will be Fireworks again around Christmas and New Year, it helps to be prepared where ever possible. 

It’s also worth noting that, many pet insurance companies now offer a vet phone type service, where you can obtain advice…without it affecting your premiums, utilise this service if you have it, and it may help give you peace of mind too.