There are few things that help celebrate a special event as spectacularly as fireworks. Unfortunately not all of our small friends enjoy them as we do. To some small friends fireworks provide the ultimate fear – loud noises, bright lights and the rest of our pack behaving differently (i.e. humans standing about looking up “oohing” and “aahing”)! Some small friends can become so traumatised by the event that it can lead them to pace about the home, dig up the backyard, scratch at the door, or even jump fences in an attempt to escape the noise. This can then lead to small friends being injured, lost or at worst killed in a car accident.

Most of the time we can predict the nights there are going to be fireworks so it is important to prepare yourself and your small friend before the fireworks begin.

What shouldn’t I do?

  • Behave differently – Any behaviour out of the ordinary is going to confirm to your small friend that there is something to worry about. If you hear the fireworks go off, jump up in excitement, run to the window or back yard and stand there looking out, your small friend is going to get anxious. “My big friend never behaves this way – there must be something wrong. I should worry”.
  • Cuddle and pat your small friend – now this one sounds harsh. When our small friend’s seem stressed it is our natural human reaction to pat them and cuddle them. In “small friend language” you are not sending a message of “Don’t worry Gerald, it’s OK”, you are actually saying, “Good boy Gerald, the way you are behaving is the correct response, well done”. By reinforcing your small friend’s stressed behaviour (by patting and cuddling) during the fireworks you are setting your small friend up to continue behaving this way with the next bang or the next fireworks display. A simple and quick pat on the head when your small friend is sitting quietly will tell them you are there, they are safe, and sitting quietly is the right thing to do.
  • Punish or scold your small friend – Small Friends Veterinary Hospital does not believe in punishing small friends. Our methods and practices are based in the belief of positive reinforcement. Punishing your small friend for reacting to fireworks is inappropriate and will only serve to exacerbate their anxious state.

What should I do?

  • Stay home and stay indoors – Being at home with your small friend is the only way you can be 100% sure of your small friend’s safety.
  • Close your curtains and blinds – This will block out any visual stimulus from the fireworks. Leave your inside lights on so any light that does make it inside from the fireworks display are not so startling.
  • Close your windows, doors and provide some background noise – Obviously our small friends have excellent hearing but any other noise will help to distract them from the noise of the fireworks. It is best if this noise is as close as possible to your normal household noise that your small friend is used to, eg the television or stereo.
  • Do as you normally do – If your evenings are normally spent sitting on the couch in front of the television then do that on firecracker night. If all is normal in the house then your small friend will have less reason to be concerned.
  • Keep your small friend in a familiar environment – any change in routine or surroundings may only add to your small friend’s stress.
  • Walk the walk and talk the talk – The best way to let your small friend know that all is OK is to behave that way. If you behave in a relaxed manner, then when your small friend looks to you after hearing that loud bang, and you don’t react then the message you send to them is that all is fine and that loud noise was nothing to be concerned about.
  • Make sure your small friend is microchipped , and/or has an identification tag. If your small friend is unfortunate enough to “escape” during bonfire night, microchips and tags will enable them to be identified and returned home. For more information on Microchips please see our Microchip Information Page.

I’ve tried all these steps with my small friend and nothing seems to work. Now what?
For small friends that exhibit extreme stress responses we encourage owners to arrange an appointment and discuss their small friend’s situation with Dr Matt or one of our other vets.