Ever Wonder Why Your Dog Is Scared Of Fireworks?
Here's how to make sure they don't run away this July 4th — or destroy your house🤫 🎆🐶
There are plenty of things dogs love about the summer — but July 4th fireworks aren't at the top of their lists.
Independence Day, while packed with food and fun, can be one of the most dangerous times for pet owners. Every year, stories pop up of dogs getting spooked and running away during firework displays or other noisy festivities, so it’s important to make your pet’s safety is part of your holiday planning. So how can you tell if your dog will be frightened come the Fourth?
Just as some dogs are afraid of thunderstorms while others stay perfectly calm, not all dogs will be scared of fireworks, explains Dr. John Gicking of BluePearl Veterinary Partners.
If your dog is already conditioned to a noisy or raucous environment, he may have no problem with the booming. However, dogs are far more sensitive to fireworks’ vibrations than humans, so it’s best not to take any chances.
“It’s the loudness of the fireworks themselves and the vibrations — the percussion of those fireworks — that they feel,” Gicking tells The Dodo. “Especially for animals who live in homes that are somewhat quiet.”
If noise isn’t an issue for your pet, he may still have trouble adjusting to the excitement surrounding the festivities, notes Victoria Cussen, director of anti-cruelty behavior research for the ASPCA.
“Fireworks also often accompany other loud gatherings or events, which can be confusing or upsetting to pets,” Cussen tells The Dodo. “Animals do well with consistency, so fireworks and the celebrations they come with can catch animals off guard.”
So how do you help your dog make it through the holiday? Here's how to keep your pup safe and still celebrate the red, white and blue.
Know the warning signs
Dogs can display fearful behavior in a number of ways, so it’s important to know what to look for if they’re joining your party. Shaking, pacing, panting and whining can all be signs that your dog is in distress, Cussen explains. Dogs may also try to comfort themselves by hiding in a small, dark place such as a closet or bathroom, as a stand-in for a den or cave.
Dogs who are frightened or disoriented by noise may have far more alarming reactions in an attempt to find safety. “Some dogs also cling to their owners, destroy property, soil the house or injure themselves when they hear a noise that upsets them,” Cussen says. “Frantic attempts to escape may cause dogs to chew, scratch, dig and even jump out of windows.”
Avoid the crowds
No one wants to be a party pooper, so it’s best to leave your pup at home where he feels most safe instead of bringing him to a crowded event — but make sure there’s adequate supervision. “If [your dog] is afraid of fireworks, this is not the time to leave them at home for eight to 10 hours,” Gicking says. “Consider having someone stay home with your pets or even boarding them.”
Pets will be calmer in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home, Cussen notes. To create a soothing environment for your pet, setting him up in an interior room with no windows can be helpful, as well as turning on some gentle music or television to drown out any distressing noise.
Make sure all the doors and windows of your home are locked, in case your pet tries to make his escape. And take precautions ahead of time so that if the worst happens, you can reconnect with a lost dog.
“Keep your pets’ IDs up to date,” Cussen stresses. “It’s a good idea for all your animal companions — even indoor-only pets — to always wear a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, current phone number and any relevant contact information.”
Talk to your vet
If your pup has an especially hard time during the holidays, talk to a veterinarian about whether some calming medication might be appropriate.
Anti-anxiety medications can be a great tool, but be sure to give a practice dose before the Fourth to see how your pet responds to the medication, Cussen advises, and never give more than the recommended amount.
To try a more natural approach, using a calming spray on your pet’s bed or crate may make the evening a little more pleasant for your pup. An anxiety vest, such as a ThunderShirt or DIY wrap, that applies gentle pressure all over your dog’s body may work to soothe his stress as well. However, pets should always be supervised while wearing one, Cussen says.
If all else fails, connect with a veterinary behaviorist after the holiday to help train your dog for next year. Desensitization training can include exposing your pet to scary stimuli, such as loud noises and flashing lights, in a controlled environment while giving them plenty of tasty rewards. Treats are always a good idea if your pet needs a little something to distract them from the fireworks.
July 4th may never be your pup's favorite time of year, but with a few precautions everyone can relax and enjoy the day off.