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[Updated July 2019]
Is your dog afraid of fireworks? Most dogs are! Fireworks can be very overwhelming to dogs and can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. In this article, you will find out why dogs are afraid of fireworks, and you will learn how to keep a dog calm during fireworks.
Fireworks are something that we as humans look forward to and find exciting, and enjoyable. But, to our canine friends, the opposite is true.
Animal shelters are at their busiest during holidays like the Fourth of July, because so many dogs get frightened, run away, and end up being lost.
According to the American Kennel Club, more pets go missing on July 4 and 5 than any other day.
It is a natural reaction for dogs to be scared of sudden loud noises, and running away is a survival instinct.
Why Are Dogs Afraid Of Fireworks?
They Are Loud
Fireworks are loud and happen suddenly. Being startled by sudden loud noises is natural, and it triggers a dog’s nervous system causing them to become anxious and scared.
When we get startled by a loud noise, our heart starts racing, our breathing becomes faster, and our stress hormones kick in causing us to become anxious. The same is true for dogs.
Dogs can hear much better than humans can, and all of those loud bangs, booms and whistles can be very alarming.
They Happen Unexpectedly
We can expect fireworks to happen on holidays like Canada Day, Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, and other celebrations, but for your dog, these holidays are just another day.
Your dog can’t predict when fireworks are going to happen. To your dog, those loud noises and flashing lights happen without warning.
The sounds and lights are different every time and happen at different intervals, so your dog can’t get used to them. Plus, there is no indication of when the fireworks will stop.
They Trigger A Fight-or-Flight Response
The sudden loud noise and flashing lights cause many dogs to perceive fireworks as a threat. It is a natural instinct for a dog to stick around and “fight” by barking at the loud noises or to run away and hide.
Your dog may show other signs of stress and anxiety, such as panting, pacing back and forth, drooling, shaking, tucking his tail in, or having accidents in the house.
How Do Fireworks Differ From Thunderstorms?
Most dogs will be afraid of both fireworks and thunderstorms. Fireworks, however, happen suddenly. They are closer to the ground and the noise is more vibrant with many bangs, booms and whistles. There is also a burning smell with fireworks.
Dogs can sense when a thunderstorm is about to happen long before we can. Their hearing and sense of smell are far greater than ours. Your dog can sense changes in barometric pressure and can hear the vibrations and sounds of thunder from far away.
Thunder is a natural loud noise that your dog will be able to sense before we can even hear it. Fireworks are sudden and your dog cannot sense when they are about to happen.
How To Keep A Dog Calm During Fireworks
Dog owners usually dread the day when fireworks happen because it is the worst day for their dog.
Well, with a little knowledge and preparation, you can keep your dog safe and calm, so that when the fireworks happen both you and your dog can be ready for them and maybe even enjoy the celebration.
Steps To Take:
1. Get Your Dog Familiar With The Sound
A great starting point is to get your dog used to the sound of fireworks. You can play this youtube video for your dog so that he becomes familiar with the noise of fireworks.
Turn the video up loud and reassure your dog that everything is fine. Play with your dog and offer treats, that way your dog associates the noise of fireworks with fun.
2. Tire Your Dog Out
On the day of the fireworks, be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise and playtime early in the day before the festivities. This way your dog will be tired out and feel calm and less anxious.
If you usually walk your dog late in the evening, on the day of the fireworks make sure to walk your dog earlier. This way your dog won’t be outside when the fireworks start, and become startled and run away.
3. Provide Food & Water
Provide plenty of food and water early in the day. Once the fireworks start, your dog may be too anxious to eat. Always keep fresh water available because your dog may drink more when anxious.
4. Provide A Safe Space For Your Dog
Have a safe place set up for your dog, if your dog is crate trained he will feel safer and more secure in his “den”.
If you do leave your dog home alone, make sure to bring him inside (even if he is an outdoor dog). That way he won’t try to escape from the backyard to get away from the noise.
5. Update Your Dog’s Collar & ID Tag
Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and that his ID tag is up to date. That way if the worst happens and your dog runs away, he can be brought home quickly. You might want to consider microchipping your dog.
6. Keep Calm
The most important thing to remember is to remain calm yourself. If you display any type of fear or anxiety your dog will quickly pick up on this and be more frightened.
7. Act Normal
Be in control, your dog looks to you for leadership. When the fireworks are going on act normal, and pretend like they are not happening. Act happy and calm that way your dog is less afraid and sees that there is nothing to be worried about.
8. Don’t Get Angry
Never be angry at your dog or punish your dog for showing signs of stress or fear, this will only make things worse for your dog. Showing your dog lots of love and attention is always best.
9. Distract With Toys & Treats
Keep your dog distracted from the noise by playing a game inside such as tug of war, or fetch.
Give your dog a puzzle treat, a treat-dispensing toy, or a toy filled with peanut butter is a good idea. This will keep your dog focused on an activity for a while.
10. Drown Out The Sights & Sounds
Try drowning out the noise of the fireworks by having the TV on, or having music playing in the background. Keep the windows shut to minimize the noise of fireworks.
Keep the curtains shut, and the lights on to hide any sudden flashes of light.
11. Leave Your Dog At Home
The best thing to do during the fireworks is to leave your dog at home and stay with him. If you cannot be with your dog then have a friend or relative stay home and keep an eye on him.
Your dog will feel more secure and happy being around people he loves and trusts. Comfort your dog by petting and talking to him. Stay happy and upbeat, this will make your dog feel less anxious.
If your dog feels more secure by hiding somewhere in the house, like under the bed or table etc., then let him do so. It is your dog’s way of feeling safe, and dragging them out of a safe spot can increase their anxiety.
12. Monitor Your Dog Home Alone
If you absolutely cannot stay at home with your dog, and a friend or relative is unable to watch your dog then consider using a Furbo Dog Camera.
You will be able to closely monitor your dog while you are away. This will make you feel more at ease to be able to see how your dog is doing. Plus, with the Furbo Dog Camera, you’ll be able to dispense treats to your dog which will offer a distraction.
13. Try A Thundershirt
A Thundershirt is very effective at keeping dogs calm when they are anxious. Many dog owners swear by it!
It is a wraparound vest for your dog that applies gentle constant pressure to keep your dog calm during fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises. It is great for separation anxiety too.
It is similar to swaddling an infant. The best part is there is no need for any anxiety medication.
After The Fireworks
When you are sure the fireworks are over, reassure your dog and let him walk around and have free run of the house to see how he behaves before letting him go outside.
Check your yard for any debris that may have fallen from the fireworks, and do a clean up before letting your dog out.
Go outside with your dog and keep an eye on him, the fireworks may be over but your dog could still show signs of anxiety and stress.
If you do walk your dog after the fireworks, make sure to keep the leash on and stay with him the whole time.
Fireworks may be exciting to watch for humans, but for our four-legged best friends they are scary and overwhelming.
Avoiding the fireworks with your dog is always the best idea, and making sure to stay home with your dog to offer comfort is the best way to keep your dog calm and safe.
Only you know your dog best and the way he reacts to loud noises. Most dogs will display some level of fear when it comes to fireworks, but if you remember to take the above steps you and your furry best friend will have a less stressful time.
What About You?
How does your dog react to loud noises? Do you have any tips to share on how to keep a dog calm during fireworks?
Be sure to leave your comments and suggestions below. I would love to hear from you.