For us humans, New Year’s Eve is about farewells to the events of the past year and welcoming in the New Year. We enjoy these celebrations but there’s no doubt that many dogs and other animals wish they could escape to a much calmer and quieter place. While we humans appreciate the visuals of fireworks, animals do not understand the noise that comes with such displays.
It is completely natural for a dog to get scared and confused by unusual sounds, as they do not understand what’s going on, and they may feel that something potentially harmful is going on. Many dogs look to their owners for some form of feedback about uncertain situations, so if they see them behaving calmly, they are less likely to be bothered about the sounds. However there is a significant amount of variation on this, and some dogs are particularly sensitive to stimuli from the outside world, therefore they need to be taught how not to be scared of fireworks.
If you have a puppy, the chances are that she has never encountered fireworks before, and therefore she will have no experience with them. If you’re expecting fireworks to go off nearby (for example, because of an event that you’re aware of), it is worth being prepared in advance. Close the windows in order to minimise the sound and get your dog’s favourite toy ready. As soon as you start hearing the bangs, try to get your dog to play. Don’t force it too much, especially if you see her getting unsettled about the sounds. Instead, try tempting her to play by pulling the toy in front of her and changing direction before she can catch it. Repeat this process every time you hear fireworks, so that your dog will begin to associate the loud bangs with playtime.
In case fireworks start going off nearby while you’re walking your dog, it is still best to try and get them to play. If you don’t have anything to play with, run with your dog or make her jump around, as exercise helps to reduce stress.
If your dog has previously experienced fireworks but is still scared of them, try to get her used to the bangs in a gradual way. For example, you can search for a firework video online and start playing it quietly while you play with her. Only turn the volume up when the initial level doesn’t bother her at all. Once she gets used to the noise in a closed area indoors, you can try moving on to the next stage of getting her to listen to fireworks sounds during a walk, from a distance.
What to do if there’s no time for getting your dog used to fireworks?