Why Are Dogs Scared Of Fireworks? 10 Tips To Keep Your Dog Calm
For nights with loud booms and bright lights 🎆
Many dog parents know that if one thing stresses out their pups, it’s fireworks.
That’s why you should have a plan to keep your pup calm during a night of loud booms and bright lights.
To learn more about dogs and fireworks and how to keep your pet calm, we reached out to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, and Alex Smith, a dog trainer at Rebarkable.
Why are dogs scared of fireworks?
A dog's fear of fireworks is considered a noise phobia. “The cause of noise phobia can have multiple factors which lead to anxiety,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo.
A common reason dogs develop this noise phobia is because they find fireworks to be threatening. “The noise of fireworks is loud and unpredictable, which your dog will associate as a threat,” Dr. Burch said.
Fireworks also create a threat that your dog’s unable to run away from, which can cause her to feel trapped. “Dogs who have a flight response to a threat can not then escape the loud booms — creating a noise phobia,” Dr. Burch said.
How to keep your dog calm during fireworks
If your dog is scared of fireworks, there are some things you can do before and during the event that can help keep her calm.
(For some guidance during the process, or if your dog’s anxiety symptoms are pretty severe, make sure to talk with a veterinarian, trainer or dog behavior specialist.)
Start with training
Months to weeks before the Fourth of July, New Year's Eve or any other event with fireworks, you can start training your pup by getting her familiar with the sounds of fireworks. This will help her be less scared when she hears fireworks in the future — which is a process known as desensitization.
“I’d recommend engaging in a play session with your pup, and putting fireworks noises on in the background, softly,” Smith told The Dodo. “You can use YouTube for this.”
Once you have the fireworks sounds in the background, Smith recommends playing with your pup to create confidence and happiness. This will help to get your dog to associate those noises with playtime.
“As you see your pup relax and get into the play for a period of time and not worry about the whizzes and bangs of the fireworks, you can increase the volume next time, then try closing the curtains, and then try doing it after dark to contribute closer and closer towards simulating the exact scenario your pup will face the fireworks [in],” Smith said.
Don’t leave your dog home alone
If your pup’s scared of fireworks, try to stay by his side while they’re going off so you can supervise her. “This one’s pretty obvious, but a dog stressed out from fireworks is not one you want to leave in your home unattended — let alone the fact that you’d be pretty mean to do that,” Smith said. “A stressed dog is unpredictable, and I’ve known dogs to scratch through solid wood doors to escape a room they’ve been closed in because of fireworks.”
Close the curtains and cover your dog’s crate
Since such a big part of why fireworks scare your dog are the sounds and bright lights, closing the curtains and covering her crate will help make those things less threatening to her.
“Closing the curtains will dampen sound and the flashes of the lights. Covering your dog’s crate will also achieve a similar goal,” Smith said. “It will help your dog to feel safe and secure and take advantage of their tendencies and fondness of dens too.”
Exercise your pup (or stimulate her brain)
Earlier in the day, make sure to get plenty of exercise with your dog, or try a puzzle game to mentally stimulate her. Both physical and mental stimulation will help tire her out and leave her less likely to stress out during fireworks.
If you’re looking for ways to get in extra exercise, you can try one of these activities.
- Try a new walking route.
- Go on a hike.
- Go for a run.
- Get a new toy and play together.
- Go swimming.
- Visit a local store that’s full of smells.
- Arrange a playdate with a puppy friend.
Put on some music
Putting on music during fireworks can not only help to drown out the loud noises, but it can also have a wonderful relaxing effect on our furry friends.
In one study, dogs who were exposed to classical music were less stressed in a shelter environment than those who weren’t, suggesting that this type of music can keep pups calm.
You can actually purchase speakers that play calming music for dogs, or for a more budget-friendly option, you can play this special type of music on YouTube.
Relax My Dog
Relax My Dog is a YouTube channel that has hours and hours of music that you can use to help your pup relax — and some playlists are even specific for fireworks! Keep in mind that ads can pop up, which may distract your pup.
Pet Tunes Bluetooth Speaker
The Pet Tunes Bluetooth speaker is preloaded with 90 minutes of calming music for dogs that repeats automatically. The battery also lasts for 8 hours on a full charge, so you won’t have to worry about it dying while you’re out.
Take advantage of licking
Licking is a self-soothing act for both puppies and dogs that allows your dog’s body to release a happiness hormone that’ll help her relax. “You’d truly be surprised how powerful this is when it comes to anxiety in dogs. Allowing that lick, that motion and those hormones, allow[s] your dog to self-soothe,” Smith said.
There are some products you can purchase that will encourage your dog to lick, and ultimately chill her out a bit.
Try an anxiety vest
Anxiety vests and shirts are built to wrap your dog in a warm hug, helping to relieve anxiety. “Like swaddling a baby or using a weighted blanket, a compression shirt will apply gentle and constant pressure to your dog's torso,” Dr. Burch said. “The gentle pressure releases the calming hormone oxytocin and endorphins.”
Consider calming supplements
“I also recommend anxious dogs use a natural, over-the-counter anxiety medication,” Dr. Burch said. “Multiple products are available on the market to help reduce our pets' anxiety for both situational events and long-term needs. I recommend looking for products containing L-theanine, magnolia, philodendron extracts, whey protein concentrate, thiamine or alpha-casozepine.”
In many situations, over-the-counter anxiety medication may not be enough to calm your pet's nerves. If your pup is showing signs of severe anxiety during fireworks, you should see your vet. “Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to decrease the response to fireworks in your dog,” Dr. Burch said.
Test out these tips for dogs and fireworks before the event
Make sure you try all of this before the event so that you know they’ll work for your dog. For things like music and other calming aids, they’re best applied before the stress comes — not after. “To make the most of these tips, dedicate the day to your dog and to calmness as much as possible,” Smith suggested.
Take extra precautions (just in case)
While you don’t want to even think that your dog would run away in response to fireworks, it’s a good idea to prepare for it just in case.
Here are some ways to make sure your dog is safe:
- Make sure she’s wearing her collar with her ID tags on.
- Make sure her microchip information is correct (and up to date).
- Consider investing in a tracking collar.
Fireworks can be jarring (even for us!), but with these tips and the right planning, you should be able to help keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible.