Is your dog scared of fireworks? It’s not alone. Although the colorful explosions are fun for humans, the unexpected sound of fireworks causes many dogs stress and anxiety. Some are so scared they even run away.
Their heightened senses can also make the explosions seem much more powerful, meaning the entire July 4 weekend is filled with panic – but there are ways you can help your pet cope.
The Facebook post below reveals the terror dogs experience from the loud booms went viral.
Heather Terpening was responding to a call where the owners were not home and the dog heard fireworks go off. The dog broke through the glass and injured herself, getting blood everywhere as she escaped the terrifying experience. The post went viral, and it’s easy to see why.
This issue is so common that every year, veterinarian Patty Khuly prints out a list of “dos and don’ts” for her clients and leaves a stack at their front desk for my dog owners to take home. In addition, Purina has also issued a list of things to know about why your dog gets anxious and what you can do to help.
Before July 4th rolls around, take some time to learn their advice. It could save your dog’s life.
Here are 9 things to know about why your dog is scared of fireworks and what you can do to help.
1. It’s normal if your dog gets scared. “While we humans have learned to expect fireworks around the Fourth of July, the sound of fireworks can be quite startling for dogs,” said Purina dog behavior scientist Ragen T.S. McGowan.
- If your dog gets scared, Khuly urges you to NOT punish it. It’s not badly behaved; it’s just terrified! According to Khuly, punishment just proves that you can be as scary as the fireworks.
2. The keen senses your dog has makes fireworks a more intense experience. Your dog’s acute hearing makes it more sensitive to the sounds of fireworks than humans are. “Fireworks also produce an odor that dogs may be sensitive to,” McGowan said.
- This means taking dogs to fireworks displays is a horrible idea. DO NOT TAKE THEM to fireworks displays. That’s just asking for more fear and stress.
3. During fireworks, your dog experiences the same kind of startled response you do when you’re surprised by a loud noise. This may mean an increase in heart rate, a rush of adrenaline, and an increase in stress hormones circulating through the body.
- Help your dog feel happy during fireworks. Offer a treat or a toy it hasn’t seen in a while. Purina claims it might help to create positive associations with fireworks.
4. Many dog owners assume that dogs experience fireworks the same way they do thunderstorms. However, thunderstorms come with a lot of warning signs, while fireworks do not. Dogs can anticipate thunderstorms with warning signs like changes in barometric pressure and high winds.
- Since fireworks are sudden and occur less frequently than thunderstorms, dogs might be more intimidated by them. Plan ahead. Contact your veterinarian to discuss medications that can relieve anxiety.
5. Not all dogs are scared of fireworks. It might be because they’re naturally easy-going, or it might be because they were exposed to enough noises when they were young that they understand that fireworks aren’t a threat.
- You can help lower your dog’s sensitivity to the sound of fireworks by exposing it to recorded firework sounds. However, this process takes months of effort that includes gradually increasing the volume while you reward your dog for keeping calm.
6. You might be able to desensitize your dog to loud noises if you start training at an early age.
- Veterinarians say that if you expose your dog to loud noises like fireworks and car horns in a positive manner when it’s between three weeks and three months old, it’s more likely to be unfazed by noises later in life.
7. Create a special area in your home where your dog can feel safe and secure during the noise. Try closing the windows and curtains and playing some music. When your pup is inside, you want to limit its exposure to fireworks as much as possible.
If your dog isn’t crate-trained, putting its bed in a calm place during the fireworks might work. You could also consider an overnight stay at a sound-proofed vet hospital or boarding facility.
8. Calming wraps and thundershirts may help for some dogs, too. These methods have an strong 80% success rate at reducing anxiety in studies. They work like swaddling does for infants – making your dog feel secure during stressful situations.
- If your dog gets scared of fireworks, cuddling it is not a positive response. Although cuddling may seem like the most kind thing to do, it actually worsens the behavior in the long run. It teaches dogs that you’re the only route to safety, and since you won’t always be available in a terrifying situation, you have to teach them alternative ways to feel safe without you.
9. According to Purina, the most important thing you can do is stay calm. Dogs take their cues from you as their pack leader. You can’t expect them to remain calm if you’re excited or anxious. If your dog sees you being calm and relaxed during fireworks, it helps it understand that there is no real danger.
- However, don’t reinforce your dog’s nervousness by rewarding the behavior. Although you may want to comfort your terrified dog, veterinarians say that petting a dog when it is already anxious positively reinforces the fear. Instead, you should pet your dog for moving toward confidence and redirection, not for focusing on the fireworks.
To help calm your dog, play the video below. It’s five hours of tried and true anxiety prevention music:
Did you learn something new about dogs and fireworks? Please SHARE this article! No dog deserves to suffer.
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