Thu, Feb 09, 23
You probably wish you could bring your dog to every Fourth of July barbecue, but if your pup tends to run and hide every time they hear a loud bang, you might be out of luck. Lots of dogs are scared of fireworks, but there are many ways you can help your dog with their fear of loud noises.
In some cases, it might be possible to train your dog until they’re comfortable with fireworks. In other cases, your dog might be too nervous about most fireworks celebrations, so you may want to focus your energy on managing your dog’s anxiety and helping them stay as calm as possible.
No matter your and your dog’s unique situation, we have the tips you’ll need to get through the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve with your pup by your side. Read on to find out why some dogs are scared of fireworks and how you can help them cope.
Why Do Fireworks Scare Dogs?
You might be wondering why fireworks are so frightening to dogs. However, when you consider the circumstances, it makes a lot of sense.
In a 2013 study, approximately half of all dog parent reported that their dog was scared of loud noises, including fireworks, gunshots, and thunder. These noises are abrupt, shocking, and have no explanation for dogs.
When some dogs hear fireworks, their brain interprets the sound as potentially dangerous. Your dog’s fight-or-flight response may be activated, but since there’s nothing to fight, their only option is to run and hide.
This also explains why missing pet reports usually skyrocket after the Fourth of July. It’s not uncommon for terrified dogs to bolt away from their homes and families to escape the sound of fireworks. If your dog is uncomfortable with loud noises, we recommend keeping them inside your house during the evening of the Fourth.
While you might know that you can expect fireworks every year at the beginning of July, your dog has no way to anticipate the holiday. As a result, the sound of fireworks will usually catch them off-guard.
It can be especially important to provide comfort and a safe, calming environment when the fireworks start going off. Once your dog hears the sound enough times, they may begin to calm down as it fades into the background.
However, some dogs are especially sensitive to the noise of fireworks and will be continually frightened by each new rocket. Below, we’ll cover some of the strategies you can use to help an anxious dog.
How Can I Tell if My Dog Is Anxious Around Fireworks?
Just like humans, some dogs are naturally more anxious than others. You might not know exactly where your dog falls on the spectrum, but you’ll probably be able to tell that they’re on edge or uneasy when the fireworks start.
If you’d like to figure out how fireworks affect your dog, you can look for some common signs of anxiety in canines. These include:
- Loss of appetite. If your dog isn’t devouring their dinner like they usually do, they might be too anxious to finish their food.
- Having accidents. If your adult dog is already house-trained, they might have an accident due to stress and fear, especially if the fireworks are louder outside.
- Excessive panting. Though your dog might pant to cool down, they can also pant in an attempt to calm themselves when they’re feeling nervous.
- Shaking. Frightened dogs will often shiver and tremble.
- Hiding or running. If your dog tries to hide or flee from the sound of fireworks, you can safely assume they’re very frightened.
If you use some techniques to manage their anxiety and calm them down, the symptoms may improve rapidly.
If your dog is not interested in their food due to anxiety, you can drizzle some chicken broth on top of their kibble to improve the aroma and flavor. You can also try providing wet dog food, such as our Tender Morsels in Savory Sauce with Chicken & Beef Recipe. The tasty, high-quality protein will encourage your dog to chow down, while the added vitamins and antioxidants will support their immune system and wellbeing.
Certain dogs are predisposed to be frightened of fireworks and other loud noises. If your dog falls into one of the following categories, they may be more likely to have issues with fireworks and experience lots of anxiety on holidays like the Fourth.
- Mixed Breed Dogs. Cross-bred dogs are more likely to experience fear when confronted with fireworks. On the other hand, dog breeds considered “gundogs,” such as Labradors, often have no negative reaction to fireworks.
- Senior or Female Dogs. Older dogs and female dogs are more likely to be frightened of loud noises.
- Neutered Dogs. Neutered dogs will often display more fear of loud noises.
How Can I Help My Dog With Their Fear of Fireworks?
If your dog is scared of fireworks, you probably wish you could do something to help. After all, you just want your pup to feel as safe and comfortable as you do.
Some good news: we have plenty of tips and tricks to support your dog through the Fourth of July and any other fireworks you might encounter. Not all these are suitable for every dog, so feel free to mix and match with whatever strategies work.
Keep Them Inside
While fireworks might not be dangerous, they can cause a potentially dangerous response. Your dog might become overwhelmed or terrified that they bolt. If they escape from their yard or break free of their leash, it can be very difficult to track them down again.
By keeping your dog inside, you’ll be keeping them safe. Make sure your doors are closed before the fireworks start, and keep an eye on your dog’s location.
We recommend taking your dog for a long walk before the sun sets on the Fourth of July or any other fireworks-filled holiday. If you get plenty of exercise in the early afternoon, your dog will safely exert all their energy before the fireworks begin. Just make sure that you arrive back home before the show starts.
Ideally, even when loud noises surround them, your dog will simply be too tired to get frightened. Rather than freaking out, they might simply curl up and fall asleep.
Believe it or not, you can train your dog to enjoy the sound of fireworks. Training requires much time and persistence, so you’ll have to start at least a month or two in advance. However, the technique is fairly simple and should be effective for nearly any pup.
You can start by looking up sound effects for fireworks and playing one at a very quiet volume where your dog can hear it. While the sound is playing, give your dog a treat and praise them for staying calm.
Repeat this process while gradually increasing the volume of the fireworks. Make sure to give your dog plenty of treats and attention if they react positively.
If they ever seem nervous or uncomfortable with the fireworks volume, turn it down and try again. Make sure they adapt to the quietest fireworks before you start cranking up the decibels.
Using various firework sounds at different volumes, your dog will eventually associate the noises with praise and treats. This training should help them immensely when the Fourth of July rolls around.
If you haven’t trained your dog to adapt to the sound of fireworks, don’t worry. Even if you’re scrambling to keep your pup calm during the night of the Fourth, there are several tactics you can use to decrease their anxiety.
One reliable method is using white noise or other sounds to mask the fireworks. You can keep your dog’s ears focused on something else by playing music, soft static, or a movie. The fireworks may not seem as scary if they’re drowned out by calming music.
Soft, consistent pressure is a good way to reduce anxiety in dogs and humans. Getting a snug vest for your dog may help them cope with the nervousness of hearing fireworks go off.
You can make a DIY anxiety vest with soft, stretchy fabric wrapped around your dog’s shoulders and chest. Ensure you leave enough room for them to breathe, and don’t pull it tight enough to restrict their blood flow.
You can also purchase dog shirts to reduce anxiety from loud noises like thunder. While your dog may still be on edge, an anxiety vest might give them the support they need to tolerate fireworks.
Another effective method for dealing with fireworks anxiety is distracting your dog with something else. Depending on your dog’s personality and what they enjoy doing, you can use various techniques.
Games of fetch or tug-of-war are often engaging enough to distract a dog from whatever’s bothering them. You can also use simple training and commands to keep their mind focused on the present moment instead of worrying about the fireworks.
However, if your dog is too frightened to pay attention, you might be unable to distract them with toys. If they’ve lost interest in playing due to their anxiety, you may need to try another strategy.
Food and Treats
Your dog probably loves food as much as any other pup, and you can use this to your advantage when calming them down. In a pinch, you might try feeding your dog a small treat every time a firework goes off. Giving your dog a treat is unlikely to work if they’re completely terrified, but it may be effective if they’re only slightly nervous.
If you haven’t given your dog their dinner yet, you may be able to distract them with the food bowl. By feeding them a tasty, appealing meal, it’s more likely that they’ll focus on eating and ignore the fireworks.
Our collection of super premium dog food recipes is a great place to start if you're looking for the right dog food. With various meals for every breed and age, you’re sure to find one that your pup would enjoy.
Our food has a high protein content and always uses fresh meat as the first ingredient, which makes it extremely appealing to even the most anxious dogs. You can check our store locator to find Optimeal® dog food near you.
You can create a sanctuary for your dog to help them cope with the sound of fireworks. It’s best to use their familiar crate or dog bed and surround it with their favorite toys. If they enjoy spending time in their crate, you can cover it in blankets to help muffle the noise.
By giving your dog a safe place to hide, you’ll be helping them ease their anxieties. They’ll feel protected and comforted, which may allow them to relax and get some sleep.
In a pinch, you can buy some doggy ear muffs to protect your dog from the sound of fireworks.
It’s best to get your pup used to their ear muffs over a longer period, so we recommend introducing them gradually. You can start by hanging them around your dog’s neck for a few minutes and work your way up to cover their ears.
If your dog isn’t responding to your techniques, you may need to hire a dog trainer to help them overcome their fear of fireworks.
A professional dog trainer will be able to cover anything you might have missed and provide consistent positive reinforcement to teach your dog that fireworks aren’t dangerous. We recommend choosing this option if you’ve tried other methods of calming your dog without success.
You can consult your vet for advice if your dog has severe fireworks anxiety. They may be able to give you specific recommendations or prescribe your pup a calming medication.
There are plenty of anti-anxiety options available for dogs, so you can rest assured knowing your pup will be just fine on the Fourth of July.
Fireworks and Your Dog
Taking care of your dog on the Fourth of July might pose some unique challenges. If your pup struggles with loud noises, you may find yourself desperately looking for any advice to keep them calm and happy.
Keep in mind that you can easily help your dog reduce their anxiety with some very simple techniques. Even if they aren’t happy to hear a loud boom every few seconds, they’ll certainly feel better if you stay by their side and give them everything they need to be comfortable.