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Why are Pets Afraid of Fireworks?

While most of us humans love fireworks, our furry friends can find Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve quite a frightening experience. Every year, these big holidays result in stories where dogs have run from their owners or people have found their scared pets have destroyed furniture.

But why are pets afraid of fireworks and what can you do to help them?

Sensitivity to Fireworks

Fireworks come with thundering noise and smoky odour. While your ears might not find the loud bangs as devastating indoors, for pets, such as dogs, the sensation is a lot different.
Dogs and other pets can pick up different sounds to us humans.The whistling noise sounds, for example, sound a lot louder to an animal and pets’ sensitive noses can pick up the different chemicals released into the air.
The noises are also not a constant thundering sound at a distance. Depending on where you live, there can be plenty of smaller distant thuds followed by a group of loud bangs right in the neighbourhood.

Not Enough Sensory Changes

What often buzzles pet owners is how their pets can stay calm during loud thunderstorms but get frightened during firework displays. To us humans, thunderstorms can sound like fireworks, so why are pets acting differently?
Whilst thunderstorms do make loud noises, the stormy weather is accompanied with other changes in the atmosphere. Pets can sense changes in air pressure or high winds, which warn them about the coming storm. So, when the noises come, pets are already aware of what is going on.

Constant Surprise

Pets cannot predict what is going to happen next. If you suddenly hear a firework go off, especially outside of a big holiday season, you might be surprised. Your body will experience a rush of adrenaline, as you try to figure out what the noise was.
You’ll naturally be able to make the connection to a firework and you most likely won’t be surprised if you hear another bang. To a pet, each firework is a new surprise. They will constantly have the rush of adrenaline go through while they are trying to make sense of the noises around them.

Calming Your Pets

It’s important to understand the behaviour in order to help your pet feel calmer during firework displays. The best way to do this is to desensitise pets to fireworks when they are still young. If the pet learns the noise is nothing to be afraid of it won’t feel as frightened later on.
If you have an older pet, the key is to create a relaxing space for them to stay in. You could try to play special music that can help block the firework sounds. You might also choose to stay with the pet when the noise is the loudest to calm them down.
Most importantly, keep your pets safely tucked inside during nights such as Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve. Even if your dog, for instance, isn’t afraid of the noise, a sudden bang can still scare them outdoors! Labrador Training HQ has a great article looking at how to help a dog that is scared of fireworks.
Fireworks are a fantastic part of celebrations, but you do need to understand that your pets might not always agree. Take good care of them to ensure fireworks are something your pets will tolerate peacefully.

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