Why is my dog scared of fireworks and thunder storms?
November and January can be a terrifying time of year for dogs who suffer from anxiety caused by noise phobias. Remember that their hearing is much superior to ours, so if the bangs emitted by fireworks are loud to us, imagine how loud they are to a dog – this is one of the key reasons why dogs are afraid of fireworks, and Coco, my rescue dog, is one of them.
According to the RSPCA, the ever-lengthening fireworks season is impacting more dogs than ever before, and every year more rescues take in dogs that have run away after being spooked by fireworks.
We wonder if this is how Coco ended up being picked up as a stray, or – even worse – how long he had to deal with them going off all around him and no safe place to go.
When we've watched her struggle with the fear of fireworks, we've done whatever we can to make her feel more at ease, but not just for herself. We have two other dogs, all of which have their own phobias, and we were concerned that they could get entangled in his anxiety cycle.
If you've ever seen a dog barking because they thought they heard the doorbell, only to be followed by another who didn't hear it but trusted their companion's response and now thinks there's something going on and everyone should be on high alert, you'll understand our predicament.
Creating a safe place.
When we discovered Coco had a noise phobia, we set out to devise a strategy for her. This means that if we are concerned that fireworks displays may be held nearby, or that neighbours may decide to hold their own garden parties, we launch ‘operation safe place.'
This starts with an early teatime so he can go for a walk earlier. We'll also start giving her supplements or specialist anxiety medicine for dogs at this time, which can take hours to take effect.
We close all windows to keep the dogs secure, and we restrict their access to windows without blinds so they can't see them or hear them.
We turn on TVs or play music upstairs and downstairs to drown out any outside noise, and we give each dog a treat-filled toy or chew bone to keep them occupied.
receives her toy or treat in the place she has designated as the "safe place.
We make sure all she wants to get through fireworks season is set up and ready for her – TV or radio on, bed in the cupboard, blanket in the cupboard, water bowl, toys and chews – so she can retreat to it anytime she feels nervous.
It doesn't always solve the issue, particularly when fireworks go off outside of the normal Bonfire Night or New Year's Eve celebrations, but having a plan in place ensures that we're doing whatever we can to assist them and keep them safe.