You know you're a dog owner when the mere thought of fireworks makes you cringe. Sure, they're thrilling and beautiful, but those big booms send many dogs into a panic. You're not alone if you spend every Independence Day cradling a trembling pooch.
Studies show that 67 percent of pet dogs are scared of fireworks and other loud noises. Fortunately, you can help your dog cope with fear around fireworks so everyone can enjoy the day (and, more importantly, the evening).
Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
It's not the bright fireworks display that freaks dogs out; it's the noise. Dogs have an acute sense of hearing and can hear noises up to a mile away. This means the light show down the street could sound like it's in your backyard to them. Not only that, but they have no idea what these loud bangs are, so their instinct is to "RUN!"
It's distressing to watch your pup spiral into a panic every Fourth of July, but the good thing about firework fear is that you can usually anticipate when these events will happen. Plan ahead to help your little one cope with these booms and bangs.
7 Steps to Ease Your Dog's Fear of Fireworks
Unfortunately, there's no "quick fix" for fireworks aversion, but there are several things you can do to create a calming and safe environment for your dog during the fireworks display. Test these out before the big day to see how your dog reacts. Use as many (or all) of the techniques that help.
1. Create a Quiet Space
The first thing you should do is create a safe space for your pup. This can be an entire room or a large crate where they feel comfortable. Keep the window shades drawn, the lights low, and make sure it's nice and quiet. Don't forget to place their favorite blanket and toys in with them! Get your dog accustomed to the space in the weeks leading up to the fireworks so it's familiar.
2. Tire Them Out the Day of
On the day of the fireworks show, try to tire your dog out with exercise. You can take them for a long walk, run, or play a great game of ball in the backyard. This will get them mentally and physically exhausted, which can make them less reactive to the fireworks.
3. Drown Out the Booms with Tunes
Studies show that music can have a calming effect on dogs. Create a special playlist to play for your pup to reduce their stress. This can also help drown out the sounds of the fireworks.
4. Spritz Pheromones
Pheromone sprays aren't just for cats; ADAPTIL is a canine-specific pheromone product that releases "comfort messages" to calm your dog during stressful events. You can get a diffuser to plug in for continuous release throughout the evening or apply a calming collar at least 15 minutes before the fireworks start.
5. Swaddle 'Em
Just as swaddling a baby helps calm them down, you can use a similar technique with your dog. No, that doesn't mean you need to wrap your dog up; we suggest getting a close-fitting garment like the ThunderShirt. This shirt applies gentle pressure to your dog, which feels a bit like a continuous hug, and helps them chill out.
Introduce your dog to the ThunderShirt in the weeks leading up to the fireworks show, so it's not a new and scary experience for them on the big eve.
6. Try Calming Treats
Consider calming treats if you're looking for a natural "chill pill" for fireworks. Our favorite calming chews use ingredients like L-theanine and melatonin to take the edge off without leaving your pet zonked out. Products with CBD are also increasing in popularity.
7. Consider Pharmaceuticals
There's no shame in turning to medication for help. This is especially helpful if your dog becomes destructive and is at risk of injuring themselves out of fear. Veterinarians have historically used prescription drugs like Sileo, imepitoin, alprazolam, and Trazadone to help dogs with noise aversion.
Your vet can make the best choice based on your dog's history and the severity of their symptoms. They'll remind you of this, as well, but always do a trial run of any medications or supplements beforehand to see how your dog reacts to them.
Do not wait until July 3rd to call your vet for a prescription. Plan to do it at least a few weeks ahead of the fireworks so you can have the medications in hand and do a trial run before the big day.
Tips for Safety During Fireworks Events
Not only is it distressing for your dog to pant and pace the entire night, but there's always a chance they could become so panicked they'll escape. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that almost one of every five lost pets got out after being spooked by loud noises. Keep your precious pets safe with these tips.
- Make sure they wear ID tags (yes, even indoor-only pets!)
- Have your pet microchipped and ensure your contact info is up to date.
- Keep your dog inside during fireworks.
- Avoid potty breaks during the fireworks show, but if you must take your dog out, keep them on a leash and secure a harness.
- Secure all windows and doors.
- Don't bring your dog to crowded events or places where there might be fireworks.
- If you can, stay home with your dog to comfort them and make sure they're safe.
Dog Firework Anxiety Is Manageable
If your dog is afraid of fireworks, it's not just "one of those things" you can or should ignore. There are plenty of things you can do to make the event a tolerable experience for your pup. Just don't wait until the Fourth of July to begin preparing. Plan to spend at least a few weeks ahead of time getting your dog ready for the big night. You'll both be happy you did.