Keeping Your Dog Calm During Fireworks
A common concern among pet owners is dealing with an excited or nervous dog when fireworks are set off nearby. Unfortunately, many dogs get scared when they hear fireworks and might start shaking, barking, or hiding. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to help keep your dog calm when fireworks are going off.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
Quite a few factors can cause your dog to be scared of fireworks. To start with, dogs simply hear better than we do. They can hear more frequencies from farther away, which means sounds that aren't scary to us might be scary to them.1 Some older dogs might develop new fears because they can't hear as many frequencies, so they're unsure where the sounds of the loud fireworks are coming from.
But there are more reasons that might cause a dog to be scared of fireworks. Early life experiences can contribute, causing your dog to associate loud sounds with something bad, like being left alone as a puppy. Sometimes genetics can play a role, or even the mother dog experiencing stress while pregnant.2
Signs Your Dog Is Scared of Fireworks
Sometimes it's obvious when your dog is scared of fireworks. She may tremble and shake, feeling so scared that she cowers under the bed. She might bark loudly or howl. Some dogs may even pee or poop in the house or act out by tearing up something.3 Others may try to escape. They might try to push out a window screen or dash past you if you open a door. That's why you need to be extra careful, keeping doors and windows shut.
For other dogs, the signs might be more subtle. Maybe she starts pacing or holding her ears back. She might whine softly, sit in a corner when she's usually outgoing, or yawn frequently.
How You Can Help Calm Your Dog During Fireworks
It may not be possible to avoid fireworks altogether, so what can you do to help calm your dog? Talk with your veterinarian, get a full health checkup to make sure there are no underlying heath issues, and ask about any of the ideas below to see which you should try first.
Mimic their Mother's Heartbeat
Your dog might find comfort in the K&H pet products that use a Mother's Heartbeat device, which mimics the heartbeats of the parents. The device comes in three heartbeats-per-minute options based on small, medium, and large breeds. The Mother's Heartbeat Heated Puppy Pet Bed with Bone Pillow has a heated bed, a heartbeat device, and a bone pillow to help puppies feel comforted. You can also get a separate Mother's Heartbeat pillow in either a Puppy Bone or Heart style.
If your dog finds comfort in a crate during fireworks, consider the Mother's Heartbeat Puppy Crate Pad in a fleece or water-resistant style. The pad has a heartbeat device inside. Keep your dog's favorite toy or blanket in the crate with him.
Try Relaxation Methods
A recent study found that techniques like counter-conditioning, relaxation training, or prescription medications can lessen fear of fireworks in dogs by about 70 percent.4 Noise CDs and pressure vests can also help.
Counter-conditioning involves giving something positive, like your dog's favorite tasty snack, when fireworks begin, so your dog can develop positive associations with the unpleasant sound.5 If your dog's a puppy and doesn't seem scared yet, try this technique anyway to help build positive experiences around loud noises.
Create a Quiet Zone
Insulating your dog from the sound can also help. Create a quiet zone in an interior room, away from windows, and play more pleasant, alternative sounds to distract your dog.6 You might play a movie, white noise on your phone, or use fans to help mask the sound. Make sure you take your dog for a walk or potty break before the fireworks start, so he doesn't get caught outside with the loud noises.
Try to Desensitize Your Pup
Some professionals recommend desensitization techniques, where you play softer versions of the fireworks sounds and give your dog treats, helping him get used to the noise. Slowly increase the volume over time. Eventually, your dog might become so accustomed to the sound that it doesn't trigger a fear reaction.
Fireworks can be stressful to your dog. You don't want your pup to suffer every time he hears the loud noises on the Fourth of July or New Year's Day. Try these techniques and see if they help. You might also consult a dog trainer or behaviorist if your pup seems especially distressed.
1. Sexton, Courtney. "Why Fireworks Scare Some Dogs But Not Others." Smithsonian Magazine, 26 June 2020, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/firework-fear-why-your-dog-does-or-doesnt-react-and-how-you-should-180975182/.
3. VetsNow. "My dog is scared of fireworks, what do I do?" VetsNow, https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/dogs-and-fireworks/.
4. Reimer, Stefanie. "Effectiveness of Treatments for Fireworks Fears in Dogs." Journal of Veterinary Behavior, May-June 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S155878782030037X#!.
5. Sexton, Courtney, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/firework-fear-why-your-dog-does-or-doesnt-react-and-how-you-should-180975182/.
6. Hecht, Julie. "Good (And Bad) Ways to Help a Dog Afraid of Fireworks." Scientific American, 30 June 2017, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/good-and-bad-ways-to-help-a-dog-afraid-of-fireworks/.
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