Parties, Dogs and Fireworks
If your dog is scared of fireworks or becomes anxious during large gatherings, you don’t have to immediately call off the party – with a little time and attention, you can help them remain calm and happy during the evening. No matter what the occasion, here are a few tips to make sure your dog has just as good a time as you do!
Caring for your dog when hosting a party
Your dog will be happy and comfortable during the celebrations as long as you’re well prepared. That way you can both have a good time without worrying about each other!
Before the party
- Make sure they have a familiar and quiet place somewhere to escape.
Not all dogs are socialites; some don’t really enjoy company or crowds, even if they are well socialised. When caring for your dog during a party, make sure their participation is up to them.
Prepare a quiet room in a different part of the house full of their favourite toys and bedding, so they can play or sleep as they wish. A couple of weeks before your event, help your dog get used to this place and make sure they’re comfortable by playing with them and rewarding them when they react positively. A dog with a safe refuge will be less stressed.
- Tire them out
Your dog loves going for walks, but as well as that they’re a great way to burn off energy. Go for a good long walk before celebrations start and make sure they’ve relieved themselves, so they won’t need to go out again too soon.
- Consider how well socialised your dog is
A well-socialised dog can happily be a part of your celebrations and may well enjoy the excitement of a crowd of people in his house as much as you. If that’s the case, introduce your dog to your friends when they arrive, so your dog knows they’re nothing to worry about.
If you’re not confident about how your dog will take to your friends, don’t take any chances at a party: if he becomes scared and runs away, or gets over-excited and jumps all over people, things will be a bit hectic. To avoid unnecessary stress for your dog and yourself, you might need to consider employing a dog sitter. Check out the Dog Directory [Link to Dog Directory page] for options.
- Decorate safely
Your dog might be tempted to chew your lovely festive decorations but unfortunately, they don’t taste as good as they look, and can be very hazardous to your dog. Other Christmas hazards for pets included lights that look fun to play with, tasty-looking human chocolate and treats - and even the Christmas tree is mildly toxic, as is holly and mistletoe.
If you dog gets used to all these new distraction, they’re far less likely to endanger themselves. Play with them around these new things, keeping their attention focused on favourite toys, until they get used to them.
Keep decorations out of reach, avoid materials that could be hazardous (like breakable glass baubles), tape wires down, and make sure your dog knows the tree isn’t for them. Your dog probably won’t be keen on fire anyway, but look out for wagging tails mixed with candles and fireplaces – not a good combination.
During the party
Most dogs will be delighted at the sudden influx of new people who can’t wait to give them little treats like pieces of party food. However much your dog enjoy this, it can be bad for them. An over-supply of rich human food and leftovers can cause vomiting or diarrhoea, bones can be a choking hazard and chocolate intended for human consumption is poisonous and may even require an emergency vet visit.
Your dog might show guests their puppy eyes, but you should ask them not to give in, no matter how cute your dog looks! Let them know in advance that your dog has their own meal times, treats and specific food. Part of your dog’s charm is their personality and the tricks they use to get some extra treats, but always remember that your dog's health is the most important thing.
If your dog loves attention, they might be in luck - some of your party guests will almost certainly make a fuss of him! All the same, keep an eye on your dog while you’re busy playing the perfect host and make sure it’s not all becoming too much.
If your dog is over-excited they may enjoy half an hour in the quiet room you prepared, which will help them calm down. If they’re overexcited, help them use up their energy and ask an enthusiastic guest, a closer friend or a member of your family to take them out for a quick walk.
Presents aren’t just exciting for you - most dogs are equally thrilled by the constant paper-ripping and appearance of new things at birthdays or Christmas! Be mindful of what you’ve just wrapped or unwrapped in case it suddenly acquires a few well-meaning but unwanted teeth marks.
A great tactic during this time is to give your dog a present of their own; a delicious chew, for example, will keep them busy while you unwrap your own treats.
Dogs and fireworks
Your dog might not enjoy fireworks as much as you do – and who can blame them? Loud, sporadic noises that don’t have an obvious source can be frightening and confusing, especially if they’re used to peace and quiet.
If your dog is scared of fireworks, there’s no need for you to cancel your firework plans, though – just follow a few tips that will help your Fireworks Night, Diwali or New Year’s Eve celebration go smoothly.
Before the fireworks
- Acclimatise your dog to firework noises
If your dog is scared of loud noises, ask your vet if they can recommend a pet behaviourist. Training and acclimatisation, especially when young, can teach dogs that bangs and rumbles are nothing to worry about. You can also buy CDs designed to get your dog used to loud noises.
- Keep your dog in after nightfall
Walk your dog during daylight hours and keep them inside after nightfall. Even if you’re not having a fireworks party yourself, your neighbours might be, which could be a bit of a surprise to your dog.
Panicking animals can easily run away and get lost or injured, so it’s also a good idea to make sure they’re microchipped, just in case.
- Speak to your vet
If your dog is scared of fireworks and their behaviour doesn’t change, let your vet know that they’re still showing signs of anxiety around loud noise. There are a number of different commercial solutions available, such as pheromone sprays, that your vet can advise you about if your dog is scared of loud noises.
During the fireworks
- Be calm and reassuring
Your dog takes their cues from you, their most trusted friend. Stay relaxed and calm and do not make more of a fuss of your dog than normal, even if they act distressed. If your dog is scared of fireworks, try to reassure them that everything is fine; carry on as normal and they will soon start to follow your lead.
- Muffle sounds
If your dog’s staying in with you, keep your curtains drawn and windows closed to quieten fireworks outside. Play music or turn on the TV to provide a constant, identifiable noise to mask infrequent, random bangs.
- Provide canine company
A problem shared is a problem halved. If your friends have dogs with whom your dog gets along, especially if they aren’t fazed by loud noises, ask them to visit.
Unless they always stays focused on you and your commands, it’s not advisable to take your dog to an outdoor festival or firework display. Your dog needs to be able to take unexpected noises and crowds in their stride, so if you have any doubts, play it safe and leave them at home. For extra peace of mind, you may also want to employ a dog sitter to keep an eye on your pet while you’re out celebrating.
Reward for good behaviour
If your dog behaves well at your party, walks to heel well while you’re outside, or even lies quietly in another part of the house while your guests are having fun, it’s important to let them know how good they’ve been.
Treat them and lavish them with praise and, if they’re in another room, drop in from time to time so that they don’t feel abandoned. The biggest treat will be your company. You’re having a party, so it’s only fair you give them the quality time they need to enjoy themselves too!
Dogs and bonfire night
On Bonfire Night, it’s especially important to make sure that your dog feels safe and secure. Bonfire Night is probably one of the noisiest nights of the year, which could mean a stressful experience for your dog.
As well as taking the precautions above to help them stay calm and settled during the fireworks, you might want to consider bonfire safety as well. When you take them for walks after an event, watch out for debris such as charred sticks of pieces of wood. While they might seem great for a game of ‘fetch’, these sticks can splinter in your dog’s mouth and hurt them, or even get into their stomach. Take a safe chew toy to throw instead.
If you live near a place where there’s a bonfire event, remember that dogs have very sensitive hearing. Even if there are no fireworks, large crowds of people can be very noisy, which may upset your dog. Dogs also have a great sense of smell, and they’re very likely to pick up on all the smoke in the air – if they’re not used to it, this could also cause some stress.
Keep your dog inside during the festivities, carry on with your routine, and gently reassure them that nothing is wrong. Dogs and Bonfire Night don’t always mix, but with a few precautions you can make sure they remain calm, happy and healthy.