Dogs and Fireworks

isolated dog


  • 41% of dog owners in the PDSA Animal Welbeing (PAW) Report told us that their dog is afraid of fireworks - that’s 4.1 million dogs across the UK!
  • Fortunately, there are plenty of little things you can do to keep your dog calm throughout fireworks season.
A cartoon image of a dog covering its ears to hide from fireworks

Why are dogs scared of fireworks?

The bright flashes and loud bangs of fireworks might be exciting for humans, but can be really scary for dogs. This is because it’s difficult for them to understand that they aren’t in danger when they hear/see them, and their senses are much better than ours – so they experience fireworks much more intensely than we do!

Signs of fear in dogs

  • Trembling and shaking
  • Panting
  • Barking
  • Pacing
  • Cowering and hiding behind furniture
  • Being clingy
  • Trying to run away
  • Destructive behaviour e.g. chewing furniture
  • Toileting in the house
  • Refusing to eat
  • Small changes in their normal behaviour – some dogs don’t show such obvious signs

Getting ready for fireworks season

Here are a few things you can do to prepare for firework season:

  • Ensure your dog’s microchip details are up-to-date to give you a better chance of being reunited if they run away from home.
  • Check the dates of any nearby firework displays.
  • Make sure you have curtains/blinds on all your windows so you can block out fireworks flashes.

How to keep your dog calm on fireworks night

Here are our top tips to keep your dog safe and calm on fireworks night:

  • Walk them whilst it’s still light and get home well before dark, before fireworks are likely to start. A longer walk with plenty of opportunity to sniff and explore will tire your dog and help them to relax.
  • Close your curtains before dark and leave the lights on to hide the flashes.
  • Play some music to help drown out fireworks noises. Classical can work well, or something with a deep bass to help cover up any bangs – just make sure it’s at a volume your dog is comfortable with (not too loud)! It’s worth starting this a few days/weeks ahead so your dog gets used to the music before fireworks night. Try one of our calming pet playlists:
  • Stick to normal routines and behave normally but, if it helps, distract them with something fun such as a game, a puzzle feeder, or a toy stuffed with food.
  • Make them a den to hide in if they wish – check out our instructions below.
  • Comfort them if they come to you for reassurance - don’t ignore them, but if they want to be alone, let them (just keep a close eye on them).
  • Watch them around other pets because they might be more irritable than normal if they are scared.
  • Wait for a gap in the fireworks to take your dog out to the toilet, be as quick as possible and keep them on a lead at all times. Never let them out on their own during fireworks season - it’s common for dogs to bolt from their garden after being startled by a firework.
  • Keep them calm and relaxed with pheromones, which are chemical messages that dogs produce to communicate with each other, some of which help them feel calm. You can help your dog feel extra calm by using a pheromone diffuser, collar, or spray, which contain man-made 'happy' dog pheromones. For the best effect, plug a diffuser in a few weeks before firework season and keep it topped up until the season has ended. If you’re using a spray for more immediate effect, give it 15 minutes to settle before allowing your dog into the room to allow the alcohol in it to evaporate (it’s not dangerous, dogs just don’t like the smell).
  • Use calming supplements and herbal remedies to help your dog relax. These work in a variety of ways, depending on their specific ingredients. Some supplements are more effective than others, and each dog responds differently, so if one type doesn't suit your dog, you may find that a different brand works better.
  • Try a compression shirt, which is a tight-fitting vests that provide a gentle calming pressure (similar to swaddling a baby) to help soothe anxiety. Only use a compression shirt if your dog is comfortable with it as it could cause further distress if they feel too restricted.
  • Never punish your dog for anything they do when they’re scared – this will just scare them more.
  • Speak to your vet for advice if your dog is still scared of fireworks despite all of these steps. They might be able to prescribe some medication to help, but you’ll need to do this in advance so you’ve got time to find the most suitable medication for your dog.

Getting your dog used to firework noises

The best way to keep your dog calm on fireworks night is to teach them that firework noises aren’t frightening (this is called ‘desensitisation’), then to convince them they are a good thing (this is called ‘counterconditioning’). You’ll need to start several months before fireworks season, and you can also use these same steps to help puppies get used to firework noises during their socialisation period (4-12 weeks old). Here’s our step-by-step guide:

  1. Play firework sounds through a speaker at home, at a very low volume.
  2. Act normally, but watch your dog for any reaction which might indicate stress or anxiety such as:
    • Looking at the speaker
    • Twitching their ears
    • Licking their lips
    • Running away
    • Yawning repeatedly
    • Barking

If they react at all, stop the session and start again the next day at a lower volume.

  1. If they seem comfortable, keep playing the sounds for a few minutes before turning them off.
  2. Repeat at the current volume a number of times over a few days, and if they seem completely comfortable, increase the volume slightly, and start again from step one – take this slowly, don’t rush to turn the volume up.
  3. Once they are completely happy with very loud firework noises and don’t react at all (desensitisation), you can start convincing them that the noises are a good thing (counterconditioning). Don’t move on to the next step until you are completely sure that your dog isn’t reacting to firework sounds at all.
  4. Turn on the firework sounds and give them a treat straight away.
  5. As soon as they finish the treat, turn the sounds off.
  6. Eventually, your dog will start to associate the noises with a treat and might even start to enjoy the noises or get excited!


  • Take the training very slowly – it will take several months, so you’ll need to be very patient and consistent. Never rush your dog, and take them back a step if they seem worried at any point.
  • Look carefully for those subtle signs of anxiety listed above – their fear may not always be obvious.
  • If you need support, speak to your vet who may refer you to an accredited pet behaviourist.

How to make a firework den for your dog

A cosy, safe den might help your dog feel safe and secure if they are frightened on fireworks night. Here are our tips on how to make one:

  • Make it somewhere you know they go when they feel worried, such as behind the sofa, under a table, a crate, or inside a big, safe, empty cupboard.
  • Make it a few weeks before fireworks season starts so they get used to it, and give them treats/praise when they go in so they think of it as a nice place.
  • Make it as enclosed as possible by draping blankets.
  • Make it comfortable with their bed or lots of cushions and blankets.
  • Put some of their favourite toys and treats in it.
  • Give them access to it at all times, but never force them into it or shut them inside it.
  • Make sure they have a bowl of water very near to it.
  • Don’t be disheartened if they don’t use it, or choose to hide somewhere else.
  • Keep an eye on them when they’re in the den, but don’t disturb them - if they’re in it, it’s likely they want to be alone.
  • Never force them out of the den even if they’ve been in it for a long time – just make sure they have access to food and water.

Can my vet prescribe a sedative for my dog’s firework fear?

If your dog is terrified of fireworks, and calming measures don’t help, your vet may be able to prescribe medication to help relax them on the night. These medications should only be used as a short-term solution. Speak to your vet well before fireworks season to allow yourself enough time to find the most effective medication for your dog. Never give your dog any medication that hasn’t been prescribed by your vet.

When to contact your vet

You should contact your vet if:

  • You have tried the recommended steps in this article, and your dog is still scared of fireworks.
  • Your dog suddenly becomes fearful of fireworks: they may need a check-up to ensure there isn’t a medical reason for this such as pain or illness.


Is it true that if a puppy is born during fireworks season, they won’t be scared of fireworks?

There may be an element of truth in this, as anything a puppy experiences during their key socialisation period (4-12 weeks old), is likely to be less scary for them than things they experience for the first time in later life. However, they would need to be introduced to the noises slowly, calmly, and be happy at all times - if it’s done too quickly, and they are scared when they first hear them, it’s still very possible that they could develop a fear. The best way to introduce a puppy to fireworks is by following our step-by-step guide above during their socialisation period.

Published: December 2022

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.