Fireworks are often the most looked forward to event on some holidays, especially the Fourth of July. For dogs fireworks may not always be loved and appreciated. Fireworks are loud, unpredictable, and can sound threatening to your dog.
More dogs run away on the Fourth of July than any other day. Running away from a threatening sound looking for safety is instinctual in dogs. When fireworks go on for a long period of time without stopping, it can cause your dog into a fight or flight mode, where flight wins for them to try to get somewhere safe away from the loud sound.
Dog’s rely heavily on their senses. Fireworks affect their ears, eyes, and nose. They hear the loud sound, they see big flashes of lights, and there is a smell of burning along with that. Fireworks are also low to the ground, causing them to sound closer than even thunder would sound to a dog. A dog may be scared of fireworks and not thunder because there are some things your dog can pick up on to anticipate a thunderstorm. Such as change in air pressure, and change of wind.
Your dog can react to fireworks in different ways. Some dogs may not be scared of fireworks at all. Especially if they have been desensitized to loud noises. Hunting dogs become desensitized to the sound of the guns, in just this same way dogs can become desensitized to other loud noises. A scared dog may react by barking, whining, drooling, pacing, trembling, or cowering. If left alone with their emotions a dog can have a panic attack or severe fear. This could lead to a dog trying to escape, running away, destructive chewing, bathroom issues on a fully trained dog, excessive licking, or even biting a human or another pet.
Tips For Calming Your Dog
The most important thing you can do for your dog if they are scared of fireworks is to stay calm yourself. If you are anxious and nervous, your dog will feed off of that energy and increase their anxiety. Staying calm and with your dog can help them feel more secure. Giving them gentle, slow, calm pets can help soothe their anxiety.
You can also make a safe space for them. Bring your dogs inside when fireworks are being set off. This can help prevent them from running away. Being inside can help them feel more safe and secure, even if they are a dog that is outside most of the time. Give them a comfortable place to hide. This could be a closet, or under a bed. If they were crate trained, giving them access to their crate can also be a safe option. A small bathroom could be a safe space. Playing white noise or music to help drown out the firework noise can help some dogs. Wherever they decide to have their safe space, bringing their bed, blanket or toys into the space with them can also help them settle more easily.
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You can start as early as three weeks old to start to desensitize your dog from loud noises. The best time to do so is between three weeks old and three months old. This starting early in the desensitization is best for it to last their whole lives. If you haven’t started that early that is ok as well. If fireworks are set off regularly by you, you can start with recordings of fireworks. As the sessions of desensitization continue, you will increase the volume of the fireworks. When your dog doesn’t show they are scared and remain calm, you can reward them with treats.
Some dogs find calming vests, wraps, or shirts to be effective. A calming vest or wrap for a dog is the same idea as swaddling a newborn. Makes them feel secure when there is a lot happening around them. The constant pressure these devices give your dog can help them relax and feel more calm.
Make sure your dog is microchipped and tagged appropriately. More dogs run away on Fourth of July than any other day of the year. Making sure they are tagged appropriately will help ensure their safe return to you if they were to escape and run away.
You can always try to distract your dog with new toys and treats. Treat-filled toys can be a great distraction that can last your dog for a long amount of time. If your dog likes to chew, getting them a new chew toy, or bone can also distract them from the fireworks.
Some dogs aren’t sensitive to fireworks and loud sounds. Others will try to run away and get away from them altogether. Knowing how your dog will respond can be important in how you prepare for situations your dog may experience fireworks. Since your dog cannot read a calendar they will not know what the date is and know to prepare themselves for the fireworks that are about to happen on July fourth. Fireworks affect a lot of your dog’s senses which is why they sometimes react negatively to them. Loud, unpredictable, and threatening fireworks can trigger your dog into a fight or flight reaction.