Dogs and Fireworks: How to Help Your Frightened Pooch
by Jean Marie Bauhaus
Dogs and fireworks aren't an easy pairing. It's only natural to want to include your pooch in festive outdoor fun, but pets and fireworks just don't make the best match. You might already know this if you've seen your pup cower at the sound of thunder, but many dogs suffer from a phobia of loud noises, and the bright flashes of light that accompany fireworks can add to their stress and anxiety. As mentioned in this article, dogs also have a much more sensitive sense of hearing, so those already loud booms to you are much more frightening to your dog. If your dog, like most, runs for cover at the sound of a firecracker, read on to learn how to help him relax.
How to Keep Your Dog Calm and Safe During Fireworks
Pets and fireworks might not go well together, but there are steps you can take so that the explosions have less of an effect on your pup. Here are some dos and don'ts to help manage your dog's stress and ensure his safety during fireworks season:
Do leave him indoors with the windows closed and curtains drawn to help muffle loud noises. If he's crate trained, shutting him inside the crate and covering it with a blanket might provide an added sense of security and safety, says Positively. If you have a basement that he can be in safely out of ear shot of the fireworks, this might be your best option.
Do make sure he gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day to expend extra energy that could add to his anxiety when the fireworks start going off.
Do check your fencing to make sure there aren't any openings through which your pooch could escape when you let him out to do his business, suggests Dogster.
Do make sure he's wearing a properly fitted collar and tags with up-to-date information, just in case he manages to run away. It is believed that more pets go missing on the Fourth of July as a result of anxiety, so it is critical to take every precaution to avoid him from running away.
Do provide a fun distraction, such as a favorite chew toy or toy filled with his favorite treat, to occupy his attention while fireworks go off.
Do put the TV or radio on to help drown out the sounds. Music with gentle sounds are typically best to help ease his anxiety.
Don't let your pup tag along to a fireworks display — no matter how much you'd love for him to be there.
Don't act any differently or acknowledge his fear. It will only reinforce his anxious behavior.
Don't let him off of his leash outside of a fenced-in area during fireworks season. If he gets spooked, he could run off and end up getting lost.
Desensitizing Your Dog to Fireworks
Dogs and fireworks don't have to be a terrible match — your pooch's fear isn't inevitable. According to research from the University of Bristol, puppies exposed to fireworks are less likely to be bothered by them as adults, reports Do You Believe in Dog? If you have a puppy who's within the socialization window of 4 to 14 weeks, safely exposing him to fireworks could help prevent him from becoming fearful as an adult.
If your dog is an adult, though, it's still not too late to desensitize him through exposure therapy, says The Spruce Pets. It might not eliminate his fear completely, but it can help lessen his anxiety.
Here's how to do it: While your dog is engaged in an activity he enjoys, like cuddling or enjoying a dog treat, play at a low volume a video or recording of fireworks going off; do this several times throughout the day. After several days, gradually begin raising the volume — but don't push it. If he seems afraid, turn the volume back down and continue at a slower pace. Keep practicing in this way until your dog can hear the video at a loud volume without becoming afraid.
Dealing With Extreme Phobia
If the above solutions don't help, your pooch may need additional assistance to overcome his fear. Special jackets for dogs have been shown to help comfort them during loud displays such as fireworks or during thunderstorms. Your vet might also have some solutions for how to help keep your dog calm, so it doesn't hurt to call them up and ask.
Stress-Free Fireworks for Fido
When the fireworks start, it's best for your pup to call it a night. Providing a safe, quiet place for him to chill out is one of the best ways you can give your dog a happy holiday.
Jean Marie Bauhausis a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.