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WESTIE REHOMING 2020 registered charity England and Wales 1108659 Scotland SC045329

Most of us dread the arrival of the firework season which can bring untold misery to our pets. It seems to start earlier every year and by Firework Night New Year’s Eve etc your dog may have already ‪been reduced to a quivering wreck and this can last well beyond November 5th

A miserable time for dogs

Considering that a dog’s hearing is so much more acute than ours the terror they can feel is unimaginable. We have a dog in foster that is highly sound sensitive and the ‘silly season’ will be a particularly challenging time for her we know.

There is also the smell of smoke and fire for them to cope with which is terrifying and spells danger for most animals.

According to a recent survey around 72% of dogs are affected by fireworks, and 10% of dogs are so severely traumatised that they need veterinary attention. More dogs go missing in the firework season than at any other time of the year with often tragic consequences

In the UK the law says that you cannot set off fireworks ‪between 11pm and 7am‬ with the exception of Bonfire Night (midnight), and new Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali (when this is extended to ‪1am‬.) We have all experienced fireworks being let off illegally during the daytime and until common sense prevails and fireworks are banned there is little that we can do

With the cancellation of public displays this year the danger is that people will be buying their own fireworks and doing their own thing in their gardens which will be even more stressful for our pets.

Top marks to WAITROSE and SAINSBURYS who will not be selling fireworks this year, so that’s where we’ll be doing our shopping.

Some health conditions can cause or exacerbate sensitivity to noise and we recommend that you get your dog checked out by a vet. Elderly dogs, rescue dogs and generally anxious dogs may have even less tolerance of loud or high pitched noises, and the whizzes and explosions. Never try to force your dog to face his fear or you’ll risk losing his trust

There are ways that we can try to help our dogs and we give a few suggestions here that have been shown to help. It’s never too soon to get your dog used to the methods shown below, and it’s far better to start now rather than leave it until the last minute. Fear tends to escalate and you need to start working on your dog’s fears now


For a few nights before and after ‘Bonfire Night’ walk your dog or let it toilet in the garden before dusk, while it is still light, always on a leash and an escape proof harness. We recommend the Didog Multi-Use Escape Proof Dog Harnesses for Escape Artist Dogs, available from Amazon.

A Didog Multi-Use Escape Proof Dog Harness

.Wait until well after you think fireworks have finished before letting him into the garden for his late night ablutions, and go with him. Check your perimeter well in advance and don’t assume that it is escape proof. It is best to keep him on a lead as a terrified dog can break out of what you considered to be the most secure of gardens. A dog belonging to a vet from our own practice was killed on the road when it bolted with terror unexpectedly. You really can’t be too careful. Check, check and check again that all cat-flaps, external doors and windows are securely shut.

Make sure your dog’s microchip details are up to date and that it is wearing an ID tag on its collar. Every year many dogs go missing, are injured or killed as a result of being spooked by fireworks when out on a walk. If possible fit him with a hi-viz jacket that makes him easier to spot in the dark, and remember yours too!

Dennis in his Hi-Viz Jacket

Draw all the curtains tight and put on some ‘white noise’ to muffle the sound and shut out any light and flashes. Don’t leave your dog at home alone, he needs you for support and to give him confidence

Your dog will be comforted by being near you

A stressed or anxious dog may drink more than usual due to the stress hormone Cortisol. A high carbohydrate supper (maybe add some oats to his usual meal) may help him to feel sleepy and help him to relax. You can try diverting his attention with a Kong, a Snuffle mat or a Licki Mat filled with high value treats

Licki Mat and Kong (from Amazon)
Hattie is distracted by hunting for treats in her Snuffle Mat

A scared dog may behave totally out of character and so be mindful too of your own safety, and that of others. Some dogs may not cope with being restricted and cuddled when they are in a panic and may snap in fear

This dog’s body language shows that he is very scared

A quiet denning area such as under a table or bed, behind a sofa, in an open crate with a blanket over the top, will provide a safe refuge, but do make sure that it’s not near an outside door or near the window. NEVER shut your dog in the crate, he needs to know that he can move away if he wants to.

Your dog will choose somewhere it feels safe
A denning area does not have to be a crate

Some dogs like to have a blanket over them, and if you have a second dog that is calm and not so affected by the fireworks, it may help to encourage it to lie close to the anxious dog to give it confidence

A nest is comforting

Be mindful of your own anxieties and emotions and try to behave normally leading by example, being careful not to send out your own signs of anxiety. Forget any outdated theories and misconceptions about ignoring your fearful dog and reinforcing the fear. Your negative emotions will certainly reinforce your dog’s fear, but gently comforting it in a calm manner will not

Quiet reassurance

If your dog enjoys a massage now is the time to give it. You’ll probably find that giving it calms you down too, it’s a two way thing. An anxious or fearful dog will often hold tension in its hindquarters and so pay particular attention to this

Gaela enjoys a calming massage

Particularly calming is Ear Work (as long as your dog is fine with having his ears handled). Start behind him and steady the head with one hand

GOING ........

Start stroking the ear gently and slowly all over the ear working from the base to the tip, covering the whole of the ear

GOING ......

On the tip of the ear is the Acupressure point, make a small circle between your thumb and forefinger. This can even bring a dog out of shock if done correctly. You can see that it didn’t take Flo long to totally relax!


Every dog is different and will react in a different way, but other things that we have found to help calm an anxious dog are:

A Thundershirt (Amazon) or Anxiety Wrap (The Company of Animals)

An Anxiety Wrap (left) and a Thundershirt (right)

iCalm Calming Music for Dogs

Available from iCalmPet.com

Pet Remedy spray or diffuser

Available from petremedy.co.uk

Flower Essences (Bach Flower Remedy)

Available from Amazon

Scullcap and Valerian (Dorwest Herbs)

Available from dorwest.com

‘Thunder and Fireworks’. (Vince the Vet)

Available from vincethevet.co.uk

There truly are many ways of helping your dog to overcome his fears, provided you start now, before the first fireworks start

Created By
Jacqueline Ferris-Woods