How to Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks

Summer is coming, and that typically means we’ll be enjoying fireworks more often.  While many of us love them, you may have noticed your dog becoming incredibly anxious when it comes to the celebratory fare.  


Fireworks are a common fear among dogs, and some studies show there may be instinctual reasons behind them.  You can take a few steps to keep your dog safe during these stressful times, and you may want to consider supplemental help as well. 


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Why are dogs afraid of fireworks?

You may have noticed your dog reacting negatively to loud sounds.  Oftentimes, the reaction may be a quick bark or just a concerned look before your pup resumes back to normal behavior.  Unfortunately, the reaction to fireworks can be more severe. 


Thunder, for example, can make your pup nervous, but it could have a “reasonable” explanation.  Your dog may be thinking the thunder is a low growl, perhaps coming from a larger dog nearby.   However, fireworks can sound different to dogs.  

Instinctive reaction

Studies show the aversion to fireworks may even have a genetic disposition.  It seems Norwegian buhunds, Shiba Inus, and soft-coated wheaten terriers were more fearful. Pointers, Great Danes, boxers and Chinese cresteds were among the breeds that showed the least amount of fear.  


Female dogs showed to be 30% more likely to be more fearful of noises than male dogs, possibly further confirming the physiological bias in this study.   


Sound sensitivity and other anxieties 

There was also a correlation between the breeds that showed noise sensitivity and separation anxiety.


“A dog which is fearful to loud noises turns out to be three times more likely to show separation anxiety. When we compare dogs with noise sensitivity to those who are resistant to noise effects, we find that the sensitive dogs are 18 times more likely to show signs of being fearful in novel situations. These noise sensitive dogs are also four times more likely to take a longer time to calm down after stressful situations. All of this suggests that noise sensitivity might be an indicator of some underlying physiological mechanism which makes dogs more reactive to potentially stressful events in their environment.”

-- Stanley Coren, Ph.D., FRSC. for Psychology Today


This correlation may be worth considering when it comes to stressful situations for your pup.  If you’ve noticed your dog has had trouble with separation anxiety but have yet to observe your dog while fireworks are going off, this may be a warning that your pup may react very negatively to the sounds.  


Negative associations

Your dog may also become stressed by fireworks due to past events or due to not being exposed to loud noises as a puppy.  If your dog hasn’t been around loud noises much before, the new experience could cause your dog to become panicked.  


Fireworks are a different type of fear for dogs, and can make a calm evening incredibly stressful on your dog.  Thankfully, there are ways to get your pup through them. 





How can I keep my dog calm during fireworks? 

Whether your dog is prone to anxious behavior or not, there are steps you can take to keep your pup more calm during a fireworks show.  While behavioral changes can make a big difference, you may want to consider supplemental help or even talking with your veterinarian for prescription medication for severe cases.  

  1. Exercise

Never underestimate the power of exerciseTiring your dog out before loud noises come around can help keep your dog more calm.  


No need to have a long run with your dog before the big barbecue, but a nice long walk, an energetic game of fetch, or tug of war can help soothe any restlessness.  The Central California SPCA has a fantastic list of great exercises for your pup.  

  1. Create a safe environment

The safest way to keep your pup calm is by staying inside, and not just to lessen the exposure to noise.  If this will be the first time your dog is with you during fireworks, you may be surprised by some panicked behavior, including trying to run away or around an area.


If possible, try to keep your dog at home; the familiarity should help keep your furry friend more calm compared to being in a new environment.  Whether you’re home or not, consider creating a den-like space for your dog to be able to retreat into if scared.  


A crate can be a valuable tool during times like these.  Click here to check out our recommendations for crate training.  This can be especially helpful if you’re staying away from home and need to set up a comfortable and safe place for your pup elsewhere. 


Your dog may instinctively try to run; make sure to keep your dog in a safe area where they can’t escape from.  The Humane Society doesn’t recommend keeping your dog enclosed in a small space, since they may hurt themselves trying to get out.  However, having a comfy crate to retreat into can be a great thing for your dog.

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Many also suggest having some calming music playing for your pup while fireworks are going off.  This can help keep your dog soothed and take away from the loud noises outside.  


  1. Consider supplements or medications 

If you have seen your pup react negatively to fireworks before, consider talking to your vet about anti-anxiety supplements and medications.  Fireworks can be traumatizing to some dogs, and easing that anxiety can be incredibly beneficial.  


  • Supplements can help ease your dog’s anxiety without any harsh side effects.  Be sure to check on the ingredients for any supplement you do give to your pet; ingredients like ashwagandha, GABA, L-Theanine, and Holy Basil have been found to be effective in keeping stress levels low.  
  • Prescription medications can aid in more severe cases.  If you’ve noticed your dog’s behavior become erratic and panicked for a lengthy period of time, a stronger medication may be needed.  

As always, your vet will be able to help you decide what would be best for your individual pet.  





Plan


Get extra help


Watch for signs of anxiety


Prepare a crate or small space for comfort


Consider supplements


Minor signs: 

Restlessness, drooling, shaking, and yawning


Keep dog inside or securely leashed


Talk to your vet about medications

More severe signs:

Hiding, defecation, vomiting, urination


Have treats and toys handy


If separated, consider have someone stay with your pet


Severe cases may cause signs to persist for hours

What can I do if my dog is prone to anxiety?


Fireworks can be terribly difficult for your pet, but it’s important to remember you are not alone in trying to manage your dog’s fear.  As we saw above, dogs that have more severe reactions to fireworks tend to be more anxious under other circumstances as well. 


Every dog deserves a happy life, and an anxious pet can make you stressed out too!  If you’d like more information on taking care of your dog through anxiety, click here to view our other recommendations and click here to see the supplements we offer.  

Resources: 


https://www.ccspca.com/blog-spca/education/anxious-dog/#:~:text=Exercise%20Your%20Dog&text=Because%20anxiety%20can%20cause%20an,this%20time%20is%20also%20beneficial


https://www.rover.com/blog/why-are-dogs-afraid-of-fireworks-in/


https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/pets-fear-thunder-loud-noises


https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/fireworks-july-fourth-tips