Typically, dogs and fireworks are two things that just don’t mix well. The loud booms and sizzling lights can send your dog into sensory overload and diving under the covers for protection.
Watching your poor pooch cower in fear can put a real damper on your 4th of July festivities. And since you can’t exactly explain what all the ruckus and bright lights are about to your dog, you’ll need to approach things from his point of view.
If your dog is a bundle of nerves every firework season, we’ve here to help. Check out our top tips for handling dogs and fireworks to help your dog keep calm and summer on.
Desensitize your dog
For a more long-term solution, you can gradually build your dog’s tolerance for loud noises. You’ll need to begin the process well in advance, but if time allows, this is probably your best option for coping with the stress of dogs and fireworks.
First, hit up Youtube for a free video of firework sound effects. When you’re ready to start the desensitization process, always remember: the key is to proceed slowly and gently so that you don’t overwhelm your dog. Play the video for a short period, at the lowest possible volume, while treating your dog to a special snack or toy. Repeat this process several times throughout the day, making sure to monitor your dog for signs of distress or anxiety.
Once your dog is comfortable with the low volume setting (it may take several days to get to this point), gradually raise the recording’s sound while continuing to shower your dog with praise and treats. Eventually, your dog should be able to hear full-blown fireworks without freaking out.
Muffle the sound
If you live in an area where loud fireworks are a regular thing, try drowning out the sound to calm your jittery dog. Keep your windows closed and use a white noise generator or turn on the TV or radio. Noise-canceling ear muffs designed specifically for dogs are another option if your dog will tolerate them.
Close the curtains
When it comes to dogs and fireworks, loud crashing isn’t the only thing that’s stressing Fido out. Eerie streaks of bright light flashing across the sky can also startle a frightened dog. To counteract this, leave on some indoor lights—this will mellow out the harshness of the bright fireworks.
Exercise your dog beforehand
Since a tired dog is less likely to react to fireworks, try wearing him out before they begin. Plan ahead and take your dog on a long walk during the day, or spend some extra time tossing the frisbee in the backyard. When the booming starts, your pup will be more interested in napping than what’s going on outside.
Leave your dog at home
If you plan on going to see a fireworks display this year, keep your dog safe at home in an escape-proof room. The risk of loud noises triggering his impulse to bolt is far too great.
Never underestimate the power of a special treat to keep your dog at ease. A classic Kong toy layered with yummy goodies or a favorite chew toy will give your dog something to focus on until the fireworks have ended.
Create a “safe place”
All dogs love to have a special place where they can retreat when they feel vulnerable. If your dog normally spends time in his crate, cover it with blankets or a sheet to make it extra cozy. Just don’t lock him there—your dog should have the option to come and go as he pleases.
Draping blankets over a table is another alternative, or you can designate one area of your home as your dog’s safe space. Lay down heaps of pillows and plush blankets to cozy things up, and try using a calming dog pheromone spray for added relaxation.
Try an anxiety vest
A soothing ThunderShirt is a valuable tool for dealing with nervous dogs and fireworks. These vests gently “hug” your pet, making him feel safe and secure. If you plan to use it for a specific event—like the 4th of July—it’s a good idea to get your dog used to the vest’s pressure ahead of time.
Your dog is highly intuitive—if you feel anxious, you can bet he’ll know something’s up. Be aware of your body language and what it could be telling your dog. Try to not jump at the fireworks, and reassure your dog by staying cool, calm, and collected.
If your dog wants to hide—let him! There’s no reason to drag him out of his hiding place or force him to “face his fears.” Pushing him past his comfort zone will only aggravate the situation and may even make him lash out aggressively.
Comfort Your dog
For most pet owners, this is second nature. When we see our dogs in distress, we’re naturally compelled to comfort them. There are, however, naysayers out there who insist that comforting your dog during times of stress is a bad idea because it will only reinforce his fears. But, according to PetMD, this simply isn’t the case. Reassuring your frightened dog by gently petting him and speaking to him softly is an appropriate response. Rather than reinforcing your dog’s fears, providing comfort will simply reinforce his trust in you as a caretaker and companion.
Take precautions to prevent a lost dog
According to the American Kennel Club, more dogs go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year, proving yet again that dogs and fireworks just don’t go together. Severely anxious dogs have been known to chew through doors or even jump out of windows! Keep your dog from joining that unhappy statistic by adhering to the following guidelines:
- Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags: In terms of lost dog prevention, this is the bare minimum. Ensure that your dog’s collar fits properly (so it doesn’t get removed) and double-check that your contact info is accurate and up-to-date.
- Get your dog microchipped: This safe and painless procedure is an affordable way to increase your odds of being reunited with your dog if he goes missing. If you move or change phone numbers, always update your pet’s microchip info.
Make your home escape-proof: Keep your “Hairy Houdini” from escaping by closing all windows and doors. Make sure everyone in the household understands they need to be careful entering or leaving the house, so your dog doesn’t slip through.
Talk to your vet about medication
If all else fails, talk to your vet about prescribing your dog a sedative or anti-anxiety medication. In severe cases, this is the only way to alleviate a dog’s stressful reaction to fireworks. It’s also worth having a chat about CBD products that can help calm a stressed-out pooch.
While the summer months are filled with fun activities, they also bring with them a unique set of challenges for pet parents. Your dog’s fear of fireworks doesn’t need to be one of them. Minimize his or her nerves with these tips, and enjoy your summer together!