Dogs are often afraid of loud noises like thunder or fireworks. These sounds are often a source of great distress, fear and anxiety for our pets, and for a good reason. Turns out recent studies found that fear of noises in dogs maybe related to muscoloskeletal pain. While you can simply avoid fireworks in some cases, in other situations, like when the Fourth of July rolls around soon, it may be impossible to do it. So here are some helpful tips for a dog scared of fireworks and how to keep your pooch calm.
1. Stay Inside and Make the Dog Comfortable
While this might seem obvious, it still needs to be noted. While you may enjoy the overall fireworks experience, your dog will probably have a traumatic one instead. Yes, not every dog is afraid of fireworks but statistics show that many dogs are scared of fireworks, even more than thunderstorms or gunshots.
Stay inside and let in as little noise as you can. In fact, if it is possible, take your dog out of town for a day or two. You could go camping or visit a relative who lives outside of the “fireworks zone”. If you have a friend out of town or at least away from other fireworks activity, you could ask them to be your pet sitter for the day.
When the loud noises start to go off, dogs generally prefer to stay close to the owner if that's possible. Even more so, they enjoy being held and putting some pressure in a form of a hug onto their body helps to relieve the stress. This is why many owners of smaller dogs roll them into a blanket “burrito-like”. Other ways are buying a calming anxiety vest which accomplishes the same thing.
2. Try to Get Your Dog Used to Loud Noises
Before the “fireworks season” begins, you can try to prepare your pooch for the loud noises. For example, you can try to get him used to the sound of fireworks by playing “music” to your pooch. This is technically not music but rather a collection of different noises or sounds. Let your canine listen to these sounds in a controlled manner to get him at least somewhat accustomed to loud noises like fireworks.
However, it's necessary to observe your dog's reaction to the sound of fireworks you play to him. If your pooch is severely scared of these loud noises, playing the sounds to him may not be the best idea. In this case, you can seek help from an animal behaviorist who may help your dog get over his phobia.
3. Prevent Escapes
If your dog gets too scared during fireworks, he might go into panic mode and try to escape. Try to prevent this by locking your doors, closing windows and not going out to your backyard during fireworks.
Make sure that your dog is microchipped or that he is wearing his ID tag during fireworks. Many dog owners don’t update their information regularly so make sure that information on his ID tag or microchip is up to date, in case that he escapes.
It is best to stay at home during fireworks with your pooch since that can help him stay calm. In fact, dogs are much calmer when they face some unfamiliar situation or threat together with their owners compared to facing the same threat alone, according to studies.
If you want to go to see the fireworks, try to find a sitter for your pooch so you don’t leave him alone.
4. Provide a Safe Space
When dogs are scared, they will often look for a safe place where they can retreat and maybe even hide. During this time, they prefer small, enclosed areas. Your dog may be comfortable in his crate during fireworks, so make sure that he has access to it.
You should also keep the curtains closed to block the flashing lights and close your windows to keep the noise down as much as possible. In addition to this, you may even cover the crate with a blanket to make your dog even more comfortable.
5. Distract Your Pooch
Distracting your pooch during fireworks can help him stay calm. Here are a few things you can try:
- Prepare Treats – Before the fireworks start, take some time to make some delicious, homemade treats or meal to give your pooch periodically.
- Play with Him – If your dog is willing, you should play a game with him to distract him from fireworks. Keep some toys nearby and try to engage him with them.
- Play Music, TV or Radio – Dogs love music, so turn on your TV or radio or play it on Alexa to distract your pooch. White noise probably works best to reduce anxiety but classical music have also been proven to calm dogs down. You can also try to experiment with other types of calming music or ambient sounds.
- Try Anxiety Vests – You may want to try ThunderShirt or some other anxiety vest, jacket or wrap. These vests apply pressure to calm down your pooch. While they don’t always work, in many cases they can help with anxiety. Alternatively, or in addition to a vest, you can also try a calming dog collar.
6. Learn How to Behave
It's been shown in studies that our dogs can read their owner's emotions. So if you notice that your pooch is getting anxious during fireworks, try to act normally, like nothing is happening, to show them that there's no reason to be scared. Be playful and cheerful around your furry friend and you may just get him to calm down. If your dog seeks comfort, you can hug him and pet him.
Don’t try to force your pooch into playing or doing anything he is not comfortable. If he decides to retreat to his crate or somewhere else, let him be. Never raise your voice to try to get him to calm down; it will have a counter effect.
7. Consider Medications and Supplements
If your pet suffers from a severe noise phobia and anxiety, you should talk to your vet about medications or supplements when nothing else helps. There are a few options that can work well in treating your dog’s fear of fireworks, and some anxiety meds you can buy over the counter.
However, you should never use any medication or supplement without discussing it with your vet first, even when you don’t need a prescription for it. And especially when you're buying your pet meds over-the-counter, make sure you understand how to use them. A few common types for anxiety in dogs are:
- Pheromones – Pheromones are often used to reduce anxiety in dogs, whatever the cause may be. They come in different forms, like sprays, collars or diffusers. Perhaps the most commonly used and certainly one of the most effective ones is
- Melatonin – You can get this supplement easily since it is used for many other things. However, melatonin is not always effective in treating anxiety but it doesn’t hurt to try. Talk to your vet to get the appropriate dosage.
- Other Prescription Medications – Unlike pheromones and melatonin which are readily available, your vet can also suggest other options that are only available with a prescription.
It's not unusual when a dog scared of fireworks, and with many canine companions being seriously afraid of that and many other types of loud noises, fireworks still remain one of the leading causes of anxiety in dogs.
While this problem can’t always be treated or solved, you can at least make your canine comfortable during fireworks. Stay with your dog, let him hide if they wish to, provide anxiety vest and give them a hug if you find that it helps.
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