The Big Bangs: Dog Safety on New Year’s Eve

Dec 29, 2022

New Year is an incredibly fun time of year for us humans – there are parties, food, drinks, celebration, resolutions, and even fireworks! Ah yes, fireworks – those big loud flashy explosions in the sky that we use to celebrate the New Year beginning. Now I want you to imagine for a moment that you are a dog – a retired greyhound perhaps – hearing these fireworks for the very first time.

For many dogs (not just greyhounds), fireworks are terrifying. Dogs have super sensitive ears – studies show where humans can only hear up to about 20,000 Hertz, dogs can hear up to 65,000. They can hear sounds over four times further away than we can and can pinpoint the exact location of the sound easily. They also, unsurprisingly, have no concept of what a firework is. To them, they are just some very loud, very unpredictable, very scary noises coming from the sky. It therefore should come as no surprise that many dogs fear fireworks and may have a panic response to the noise. Many dogs also respond this way to thunder, which is common in our summer storms.

Signs of panic or fear in your greyhound include (but are not limited to) panting, shaking, drooling, pacing, crying, and refusing to settle. Some of these signs are comorbid with more serious concerns, but on New Year’s Eve, the culprit is very often fireworks. I have three greyhounds, and each of them has different responses to fireworks. Rhythm sleeps right through and does not care. Pancake is alert but comfortable. And Bean is terrified.

When fireworks are set off in Bean’s area, full-blown panic ensues. She begins to shake all over and pants uncontrollably. She often tries to hide in small spaces, and most scarily, she tries to get away from the sound. This is a common occurrence for dog owners all over the world, and if you trawl social media on New Year’s, you will see evidence of it in the dozens of missing dog posts. In their panic, dogs who fear fireworks or thunder will often try to escape the stimuli – often jumping fences, breaking through gates, and slipping out gaps in our houses. It can be very scary for both dog and owner, and it is so important to know the best ways to prevent this.

If you notice your greyhound fears fireworks or thunder, some effortless steps can be taken to help them relax. Start by limiting the exposure – close doors and windows to the sound and keep your greyhound inside with you. Some hounds (Bean being one of them) respond well to soft music or ambient sounds being played – I like using rain sounds (without thunder noises of course!) or YouTube videos titled ‘anxiety-reducing music for dogs. Make sure they have plenty of access to water and offer them small easy to chew treats. Make sure you do not smother them with love if they do not want it – Bean loves a cuddle when she is scared, but some dogs prefer some space – so read their signals as best you can. Keep your energy calm and relaxed, as they will notice your anxieties too. Some dogs also respond well to ‘Thunder Shirts’ or compression – chat to your vet about your options here. In some rare cases of extreme fear, topical anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed – this is also something to talk to your vet about.

If you are not home with your hound when the big bangs happen, the best thing you can do is make sure they are secure. Keep them indoors, or if they do have outside access while you are out, make sure all your fences and gates are extra secure, and they are wearing some identification on them just in case they were to make a great escape. You can pre-emptively put on that calming music, too. Consider a dog sitter if you know your hound fears such sounds or get someone to check on them if you cannot.

Let us make it a happy New Year for all of us, including our furry friends this year. Stay safe, stay calm, and we will see you in 2023!

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