Everything new dog owners need to know before fireworks begin

New Year’s Eve can be one of the noisiest nights of the year. All the fun of fireworks, crackers and hissing rockets brings with it the worry of how your pooch will cope with the pandemonium.

These fears might be multiplied if you’re a new dog owner. Whether it’s a new puppy or an adult you’ve rehomed from a rescue centre, chances are you’ve no idea how they’re going to react with fireworks.

One thing is for sure – your pet is likely to be very sensitive to sights and sounds. “Their senses are much more enhanced than ours,” says Dr Jayne Laycock, resident vet at YuMOVE. “Think about their sense of smell, sight and hearing – things such as loud bangs, flashes, vibrations and the noises associated with fireworks can potentially be very, very scary.”

She suggests it’s much better to get puppies used to the sound of fireworks during their period of socialisation – up to 16 weeks of age.

Naturally, prevention is better than cure – there are plenty of resources available, such as socialisation CDs to help guide owners through the process. Dr Laycock says ideally this should be done several weeks – if not months – before you know there will be fireworks.

Read: Special abilities that show dogs are smart

If you’ve left it too late and are worried about how you might cope on the big night, Dr Laycock lends her expert advice to help you both get through it together.

1. Create a safe space for them to call their own

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“What we call a den,” says Dr Laycock. “Basically, this might be a space behind the sofa, under a table or anywhere you feel they’d like to go to feel calm and safe. Load it up with lots of soft bedding, blankets and old clothes they can bury themselves into if they’re feeling distressed.

“Put some favourite toys in that area and make sure they’ve got some treats and water. You want them to come and go out of that space as they please, so they see it as a really safe place to be.”

2. Make sure the house and garden are fully secure
Fireworks tend to go on for a while, so be prepared. “A dog’s first instinct is to run or panic, so you want to make sure your house is secure, and they can’t escape or get lost,” suggests Dr Laycock.

3. Walk and feed them before the fireworks begin

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Take them for a walk during daylight hours, so you don’t risk any fireworks going off when they’re out and about. As Dr Laycock points out: “You don’t want to stress or wind them up in any way, so take them for a nice long walk, something that tires them out a bit. They can go to the toilet, so you’re not having to let them in and out at night when the fireworks are going off. Ideally, try to feed them before darkness, to settle them.”

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4.  Close the curtains
“Before you think the fireworks are about to start, make sure the curtains, windows and doors are closed, so you’re minimising the flashes, sights and sounds which are going to be triggers to upset them,” says Dr Laycock. “Some dogs might be absolutely fine, but you want to reduce the risk of there being a problem.”

5. Always be led by your dog

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“If your dog wants to hide away, let them. If they’re upset, distressed, or they just want to go somewhere quiet, let them go to their den and leave them alone. You need to be led by the dog.”

Dr Laycock continues: “There are some dogs that will come to you for reassurance, and that’s absolutely fine. Reassure them in the way that you normally would with a pat on the head, but try not to overcompensate with your affection, as anything out of the ordinary is likely to increase anxiety levels further.”

6. Remain calm yourself
“It’s very important to remain calm – if you get anxious, the dog may feed off this, and it’s likely to make their anxiety worse,” Dr Laycock explains.

Read: Things we do that really confuse our dogs

7. Make a playlist for your dog
“Keep the TV on as background noise, so you’re drowning out the sound of the fireworks, or play music which can have quite a soothing effect on dogs as well,” says Dr Laycock.

8. Never punish your dog
“Try to avoid telling your dog off as it can be quite destructive – it’s not their fault they’re feeling scared. Even if they’re really well house trained, some dogs might have an accident and pee in the house,” explains Dr Laycock.

“They might bark incessantly, yowl, pace up and down and pant the whole time, which can be quite frustrating, but it’s really important not to tell them off. It’s just another negative factor you’re putting on them – and another reason for them to hate those firework noises because they’ve got mum or dad telling them off at the same time.

“If you’re tempted to smack the dog if it does do a poo on your carpet, it’ll make matters worse, because now the dog thinks, ‘The fireworks are going off and I get smacked by my owner, now I’m going to poo on the floor even more!'”

Do you have a new or anxious dog? Do you have any other things in place to keep them from getting anxious? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

– With PA

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