Fireworks And Dog Anxiety
(Updated July 2021)
In my behavior and training sessions, I see many dog separation anxiety, fear, and phobia cases where loud noises and inanimate objects are high on the list of scary stimuli. Natural disasters, earthquakes, thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, fireworks, and loud noises are disconcerting for most dogs.
Please comfort your pet when they are scared. Dog anxiety can not be reinforced and you won’t make your dog more scared by comforting them when they are fearful.
Many dog breeders don’t, but should, socialize, enrich, habituate and desensitize dogs to a variety of loud noises (including fireworks) way before the dog gets to their new home.
If fireworks and loud noises scare your dog (as it does for most dogs), you should insulate your pet in an interior room of the house. Preferably a room with no windows and loud white noise and canine comforting music playing.
There is dog classical music (Baroque period and reggae music in particular) that are shown to soothe dogs and that are made just for this purpose.
Ideally, you should also desensitize and habituate your dog to scary sounds at a young age so that loud noises such as a car or truck backfiring, thunder, or fireworks don’t startle your pet.
If you buy a dog from a breeder, you should seek out an ethical breeder who desensitizes and habituates your dog to these various stimuli because you are bound to experience many of these loud noises throughout your dog’s life (for example, on July 4th, New Year’s Eve, the next fireworks display, or when a summer thunderstorm that rolls in.) You want to set your dog up for success and prepare yourself and your dog for the inevitable loud noises that ensue.
- Although sound reproduction is somewhat helpful to D/CC, and habituate your dog to a variety of noises. If you want to do practice behavior modification much more effectively you will need to record and playback those sounds in high-fidelity, lossless reproduction. In other words, get yourself a high-fidelity speaker system that can reproduce the highs and lows that your dog actually hears when these sounds happen in real life.
Methods To Manage Your Dog’s Fear During Fireworks
Read my separation anxiety disorder page first to learn many other techniques and products that will help your fearful dog. There are many parallels and overlap between a dog who is experiencing separation anxiety and who also has a fear of fireworks or thunderstorms.
- Take your dog for a nice long walk and exercise prior to the event, so they have the opportunity to eliminate and are more relaxed and fulfilled. For most healthy dogs, an exercised dog is a happy dog. With this recommended dog leash, collar, and harness or something similar.
- Get your dog a pair of noise-canceling headphones. They not only block out noise but you can play comforting music for your dog to relax. As an added benefit you can use them as well when you travel, at the coffee shop, or when listening to music.
- Protect your dog’s eyes with the best dog goggles! Bright flashes of light, dust, debris and ambers can all injure your dog’s eyes.
- You should already have a sturdy and durable dog crate or kennel that your dog loves. Or something very secure if your dog is an escape artist like this dog kennel. But ideally, your dog should not be trying to escape because this should be her Zen area and be conditioned positively long before the event.
- One of the many ways (but perhaps the easiest) to acclimate your dog to these loud, startling sounds is to simply manage the situation and don’t bring or expose your dog to these types of stimuli and events! Alternatively, bring your dog to the interior of the house, basement, or a room without windows that is the most isolated from the loud noise / scary stimulus. You can try to soundproof the room in a variety of ways.1-2 Make sure there are no windows or that your windows and blackout shades are fully closed. If you have large openings under the door, you can even put a towel folded up where you would during a fire to help block out any additional noise. Put on soft calming music, preferably loud enough to block out the other sounds. Certain types of classical music are very calming for dogs and there are products made specifically music for a dog’s ear that is shown to calm a dog’s nerves. Practice during quiet times when there are no loud thunderstorms or fireworks around and go through the same routine as you will during an actual noisy event. Get your pup used to going to this room, listing to calming music, and receiving treats. Not just any treats, but the highest value treats that your dog loves.
- Scents and aromatherapy are also proven to calm dogs (and cats). Lavender, chamomile and other calming essential oils don’t only help humans settle their nerves but canines as well. However, there are some essential oils that are toxic to your pets. Unlike dogs, cats are much more sensitive to some scents and can also develop toxicities. Products that are safe for your dog may not be safe for your cat.
- Another holistic option to soothe your dog is Rescue Remedy by Bach Flower
- Never take your dog with you to watch the fireworks or leave them home alone to “tough it out” or “deal with it” alone. This is a very traumatic and stressful event for your dog, and they need your help and supervision at home where they are most comfortable.
- Remember, emotions are not reinforceable, behaviors are. Petting your dog and comforting them will not encourage your dog to be scared or afraid. Just as you would comfort your child when they are petrified and scared for their life, so should you comfort your dog.
- There are thunder vests or dog anxiety wraps that have shown to make dogs feel less stressed. These products are used in separation anxiety cases as well. Of course, do not forget to praise your dog with treats and affection especially when they are calm and relaxed. Try your best to engage your pup and occupy their mind with dog training (simple behaviors that they know very well). Treat heavily for these simple behaviors which work to build confidence. Dog training builds confidence and security while rewarding your dog with their favorite toys and juiciest treats.
- Another worthy product that helps with anxiety is a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.) One such product is Adaptil, sold as a collar or a plug-in diffuser. This is a synthetic pheromone that works by releasing pheromones that are released when a mother dog is lactating, giving your dog a sense of well-being and reassurance.
- Make sure your dog is wearing their collar with ID and is microchipped that is up-to-date. If the worst happens and your dog escapes, this is your best bet at recovering your dog. Holidays, where there are fireworks, are the scariest time for dogs. Hence, this is when they escape most from home. July Fourth and New Year’s Eve are also the busiest time of year for animal shelters.
- There is no substitute for a great behavior modification protocol, systematic desensitization, and counterconditioning (D/CC). A sound behavior modification protocol will be a long-term solution in conjunction with medicines, or the above holistic aids.
Before you know it you may turn thunderstorms, fireworks, and loud noises into an event your dog enjoys, or at least doesn’t dread.