Pets and fireworks

Many animals find fireworks scary. It's estimated that 45 per cent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear them. It doesn't have to be that way though - there are lots of simple things you can do to help your pet deal with fireworks.

How to calm dogs during fireworks

Before the firework season begins

Planning ahead can help dogs cope with the fireworks season. Before the fireworks season starts, provide your dog with a doggy safe haven. This should be a quiet area, so choose one of the quietest rooms in your home - a place where they feel in control. Don't interfere with your dog when they're in that area.

Train your dog to associate the area with positive experiences, e.g. by leaving their favourite toys there, but not imposing yourself at any time. Use a variety of chew toys, such as stuffed Kongs and chews, and swap them regularly, putting them away when not in use so that your dog doesn't become bored with them.

With time, dogs can learn that this place is safe and enjoyable. When fireworks go off, they may choose to go there because they know, in that place, no harm will come to them and they are more able to cope. It's important that your dog has access to this doggy safe haven at all times - even when you're not at home.

When the fireworks start

  • Walk your dog during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off.
  • Move your dog to the safe haven each evening before the fireworks begin, and provide toys and other things that they enjoy. Make sure there are things for you to do too, so your dog isn't left alone.
  • Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks and blackout your doggy safe haven so they can't see any flashes outside.
  • Put on some music or TV to mask the firework sounds.
  • Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don't force them to play.

You could also talk to your vet about pheromone diffusers. These disperse calming chemicals into the room and maybe a good option for your dog. In some cases, your vet may even prescribe medication.

In the long term, however, your dog needs to learn to be less afraid of loud noises, so that the next fireworks season will be less stressful for you and your dog. This is possible with behavioural therapy. Sound Therapy 4 Pets is a therapy pack available to teach your dogs to be less scared of loud noises.

In the video below, we talk about how to build a safe dog den and other top tips on keeping your pets safe and happy this fireworks season.

How to help cats who are afraid of fireworks

  • Provide hiding places in your home, such as under some furniture or in a quiet corner.
  • Don't try and tempt your cat out, as this will cause them to become more stressed.
  • Consider keeping them in - cats can become more stressed if they're outside during fireworks.
  • Microchip your cats in case they're startled and escape outside.

How to help small animals during fireworks

  • Partly cover outside cages and pens with blankets so an area is soundproofed and hidden, but allow another area for the animals to look out.
  • Provide bedding for small animals to burrow in.
  • Consider bringing them indoors - this will need to be done gradually, so plan ahead.

Keeping horses safe during fireworks

It's not just the animals in your home that can be scared of fireworks - horses can be too. If you're a horse owner:

  • Know in advance - check to see if there are going to be any firework displays in your area.
  • Talk to the organisers - where possible, tell the organisers of firework displays that there are horses nearby and ask them to set off their fireworks in the opposite direction.
  • Get BHS advice - for top tips on keeping your horse safe and secure during the firework season, please follow the advice from the British Horse Society.
Advice for pet owners during the fireworks season © RSPCA

How to treat firework phobia

Firework phobia is a treatable condition and animals don't have to suffer every year. Seek advice from your vet who will, if necessary, be able to refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist. Never punish your pets when they're scared, as this will only make things worse in the long run. 

Acknowledgement for this information is made to Prof Daniel Mills. Read more about our expert contributors.

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