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Carlisle Vets

Firework Phobia

Prescription drugs are often necessary to treat canine firework phobias. Please make an appointment to see a vet who will be able to discuss your dog’s phobia with you.

The information on this page explains measures that can be helpful to reduce anxiety levels in dogs that are scared of fireworks.

Creating a Refuge

Your dog may already have a preferred place in which to hide. If not, the most suitable place to create a refuge is likely to be in the middle of your house where the fireworks will not be as loud. Put down lots of blankets for your dog to dig amongst. Include an old, unwashed item of clothing as your dog may find your scent comforting. Try to minimise the amount of noise that can enter the shelter using heavy curtains. Ideally the refuge should have no windows so your dog cannot see the flashes from fireworks. The shelter should be accessible to your dog at all times and the door should be fixed open so that he can’t be locked in or out.

Get your dog used to the shelter by taking him there and offering him food treats. The shelter should be prepared as far in advance of bonfire night as possible.

Install a DAP diffuser (DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone) in, or close to, the shelter. DAP diffusers work like plug-in air fresheners but the smell they produce can only be detected by dogs. The scent is a reproduction of the scent produced by the glands on a bitch’s tummy when she is rearing puppies and serves to calm and reassure dogs of all ages. DAP diffusers are available from the surgery and should be left in operation 24 hours a day. If possible install the diffuser a week before bonfire night. They cost about £27.00; refills are about £20.00.

On Bonfire Night

Give your dog a large carbohydrate-rich meal (e.g. pasta) late in the afternoon. This will help him feel calm and sleepy as the night draws in. Give any medications provided by your vet at the appropriate time, usually about an hour before you expect the fireworks to start.

As soon as the firework display starts lead you dog to the refuge and encourage him to stay there. Try to avoid getting cross with him if he or she becomes distressed.

Try to ignore your dog if he is frightened but show attention and affection when he is relaxed.

Try to be happy, relaxed and unconcerned yourself.

Leave chews in his refuge as chewing may help to reduce his tension.

Loud rhythmic music is an effective way to mask firework noises. (Rock music seems to work well for the author’s German Pointer!)

Many dogs tolerate cotton wool plugs in their ears surprisingly well.

A recording of firework noises is available. The CD can be used to desensitise your dog to the sound of fireworks. The program needs to start well in advance of fireworks night. It is not guaranteed to work can be very effective in some cases. The CD is about £12.00.