Effectiveness of treatments for firework fears in dogs

Riemer, Stefanie (2020). Effectiveness of treatments for firework fears in dogs. Journal of veterinary behavior, 37, pp. 61-70. Elsevier 10.1016/j.jveb.2020.04.005

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An online questionnaire survey investigated (1) management and (2) treatment methods for firework fears in dogs used by dog owners and their (perceived) effectiveness. A Principal Components Analysis on data from 1,225 respondents revealed four management strategies (i.e., interventions during firework exposure): the principal components are “environmental modification” (e.g., providing a hiding place, keeping windows and blinds closed, and playing music), “feed/play” (providing the dog with chews, play, and food during fireworks in general, as well as contingent on loud bangs), “alternative” (use of calming nutraceuticals, pheromones, herbal products, homeopathic products, Bach flowers, and essential oils), and “interaction” (allowing body contact, petting, and talking to the dog when loud bangs occurred). To explore possible effects of these management methods on fear development, the components were correlated with a score for fear progression. Of the four components, only “feed/play” was statistically associated with an improvement in fear responses to fireworks. To evaluate the effectiveness of various treatment strategies, owners were asked to select from a range of options which interventions they had used and whether they considered them as effective. With prescription medication (N = 202), improvements were noted by 69% of owners, with high success rates reported for the most frequently prescribed drugs, alprazolam (91%) and Sileo® (74%). Although individual products were not evaluated, the reported success rates for the categories “pheromones” (N = 316), “herbal products” (N = 282), “nutraceuticals” (N = 211), “essential oils” (N = 183), “homeopathic remedies” (N = 250), and “Bach flowers” (N = 281) were all in the range of 27-35%, which is not higher than that would be expected based on a placebo effect. Pressure vests were deemed as effective by 44% of respondents (N = 300). Counterconditioning (providing desirable stimuli after the occurrence of noises) was the most successful training technique according to the owners (N = 694), with a reported effectiveness of over 70%. Relaxation training (N = 433) was reported to be almost as successful at 69%, whereas noise CDs (N = 377) were effective in 55% of cases. Thus, counterconditioning, relaxation training, and anxiolytic medication appear to be the most effective strategies in the treatment of firework fears in dogs. On this basis, it is recommended that ad hoc counterconditioning and relaxation training should complement the standard behavioral technique of desensitization/counterconditioning with noise recordings.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute > Animal Welfare Division
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Riemer, Stefanie


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)








Lilian Karin Smith-Wirth

Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 11:57

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:39

Publisher DOI:






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