How to help your Spaniel with Firework night stress

October 21, 2021
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Do you have a Spaniel or Spaniel mix puppy at home that’s never experienced fireworks before?

Perhaps you have a rescue Spaniel or Spaniel mix who is already uncertain of their new home and you’re worried about fireworks?

Maybe your dog is noise sensitive and you want to know the best way to help keep them comfortable during a noisy time?

Or perhaps your dogs are fine with noise but you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your Spaniel happy?

Perhaps you have a hyperactive Spaniel and you want to tire them out before firework night so that they can try to settle amongst the noisy outside activity?

Or you just have a new puppy that you want to make sure is happy with the noise from the beginning?

There’s a reason our dogs can be quite scared of noises, especially when it comes to fireworks. It’s because their ears are extremely noise sensitive.

Did you know that our dogs can hear four times greater than us as humans?[1]

Do you ever wonder how your Spaniel or Spaniel cross knows as soon as you’re about to open a packet of crisps, even if you’re in a completely different room?

Now think about how loud the explosion of a firework can be for us!

With bonfire night just around the corner, and fireworks seeming to be more popular now than ever, I want to share with you my advice for helping your Spaniel or Spaniel mix prepare for the noise.

Why does noise affect dogs?

Dog’s can sense changes in the atmosphere, it’s where the phrase ‘a storm brewing’ comes from because just like how we can feel a change in the air around us dog’s can sense when something is going to happen to, you might notice your Spaniel or Spaniel mix change their behaviour or become more wary, or even barky before the noise starts.

Surprisingly my noise reactive Spaniel Kobie is usually (fingers crossed!) absolutely fine with the noise, but it has taken lots of training, consistency and patience when fireworks are going on.

On firework night your dog’s anxiety can rocket, and if they go on for a prolonged period of time that means your poor pup is living in a state of anxiety. Be aware of trigger stacking during this time to (when every little thing adds up) your dog may suddenly seem to be more reactive to other dogs/people things they are usually fine with on walks, because they are trigger stacked from the fireworks.

Check out my video here all about Trigger Stacking.

What to do if your Spaniel is very scared of fireworks

If your Spaniel or Spaniel mix is very scared from the fireworks, they can then generalise this fear to anything that predicts them or sounds like them, ie darkness, times of evening, gunshots etc so its important to help them learn the noises are nothing to be scared of. As fear of noises generally gets worse not better on its own.

Your Spaniel may also start to associate being left alone with the loud scary noises of fireworks, so if they are feeling anxious and scared and you’re not around for those evenings they can in some cases develop a fear of being alone. So it is always best to be with them if you’re not sure how they will react.

It can also be helpful to see out how your Spaniel or Spaniel mix is feeling both about being left alone, and with hearing noises by investing in a pet camera so you can see them while you are out.

A distressed Spaniel may show signs of pacing, panting, shaking or trembling, restlessness, trying to hide, not eating their food or salivation.

You being around will help them to feel safe and secure, plus there are things that you can do at home to help them.  

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Photo by Dan on Unsplash

What to do before the fireworks begin

Before any fireworks begin try to take your Spaniel out for a good walk, preferably before it’s dark… there’s always one house that lets their fireworks off early but as long as it’s light you should be safe! Try to make the walk a calm walk, you could try hiding some treats or their favourite toy in the grass for your dog to find. Get that Spaniel nose working. Sniffing activates your Spaniel’s seeking system, this releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine which increases attention and makes your Spaniel feel good. The same sort of feeling we might get after a nice hot bath!

When you get home, have some kongs, chews or licky mats ready to give them when the fireworks start. My boys love peanut butter in their Kong, so you could try treating them with this, just make sure there’s no xylitol in it. See more kong ideas below (insert kong recipe links)

You could do some brain training and enrichment at home with your dog too, if you can before the fireworks start and during them if they are happy to. Brain training is super important when it comes to helping Spaniels calm the hell down, have you ever noticed how you could walk for miles and by the end of it your Spaniel isn’t even phased let alone tired?

Spaniels are the Mo Farah of the dog world, they will run and chase their ball all day and not even need to sit down. But when you start to engage their brains and their noses that’s when the magic starts to happen and they can finally start to relax.

I share tons of Spaniel enrichment ideas and mental stimulation in my Spaniel Inner-circle, it’s the place to be if you want to find out how to calm and train your Spaniel.

So what about when the fireworks are going off?

Have the windows and curtains closed to try to muffle the sounds. Be prepared with lots of high value food for your dog, you could make up a platter of high value food (very fancy!! Think of including the food that motivates your Spaniel the most, this might be chicken or cheese.

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Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

Whenever you hear a noise throw them some food, so that you pair hearing fireworks with food and create a positive association to them. If you dog will play with you, you can also play with their favourite toy during this time. It may be a good idea to buy a new toy that you bring out when the fireworks go off.

You may often hear people saying don’t fuss your dog or give them attention if they are worrying as you will make it worse, but if your dog is displaying anxious barking I would say you are absolutely fine to reassure them calmly, don’t act frantic yourself as otherwise yes your dog is likely to wonder why you are panicking. Fear is an emotion, not a behaviour, and you cannot reinforce an emotion, so if your dog wants a cuddle give them a cuddle, if they want space give them this too. Join your dog in getting cosy, I’ll be in my PJ’s early hoping my boys want to cuddle up!

You might notice that your dog doesn’t want to settle in their ‘usual spot’ or they are wanting to be in a specific place more than usual.

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Photo by Samuel Foster on Unsplash

Look at where your dog is going to feel safe, they may they go to a room they rarely go in, or under a table. I worked with a client in the past who’s dog wanted to be in the bathroom so she set up a safe space in there with blankets, chews and toys to keep her dog comfortable.

Wherever your dog chooses as their safe space, think about what you can put there to help them feel more relaxed and comforted. If your dog uses a crate you could put a blanket over the top of it to further muffle the noise. Make sure lots of water is available too, if your dog is stressed they will likely drink more.

Try using background music or having the TV on to help muffle the noise, classical music can be really great for helping calm down dogs, and so can music with a quiet bass, this can help to mask and reduce the loud outside banging of any explosive fireworks. Reggie music and soft rock has also been found to reduce stress, barking and dogs heart rates on a study by the University of Glasgow and the Scottish SPCA, so get your Bob Marley tunes ready!

You can play the below track for your dog, it has a frequency that covers the sound of fireworks which can really help your dog.

What about if your dog needs to go outside for the toilet?

When it comes to toilet time for your Spaniel try to take them outside before the fireworks start and after they finish. This is hard to gage but it’s much better to have an accident in the house than a sudden fear of the garden caused by an unexpected firework.

And if your dog is really scared, work with a professional, sometimes the fear can get worse and is generalised to other noises so it’s best to work on it before it progresses and becomes a bigger issue. The ideal time to start helping your Spaniel or Spaniel cross feel happier around fireworks is after fireworks season finishes so around January.

If they are really worried, please talk to your Vet in advance, and be prepared. There are lots of medications that can help your dog cope better with fireworks night, and stop the fear from getting worse. Your vet will be able to discuss the best one for your dog with you. But do book this in advance, vets are incredibly busy now.  

And if your dog loves the fireworks great, enjoy them together and have a wonderful fireworks night, just be aware for some dogs they can find it very very distressing.

In my Spaniel Inner-circle monthly membership for Spaniel owners we have recently had a live session with a lovely Vet and myself all about helping your Spaniel or Spaniel mix prepare for fireworks. All of the live sessions are uploaded and available to replay, you can join today and watch it getting my help and support straight away!

Find out more about the Spaniel Inner-circle now!


[1] https://www.petmeds.org/petmeds-spotlight/how-well-do-dogs-hear/

By Hannah Antrobus

Hannah is a spaniel specialist dog trainer for spaniels and spaniel crosses. Her catchment area is Warwickshire but she offers video sessions and works with clients nationally and internationally so don’t hesitate to get in touch from wherever you are in the world!

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