Fireworks are something many people look forward to. Unfortunately, oftentimes many dogs don’t share the same excitement. Even if they aren’t close enough to see the bright colors, the loud booms can often be heard from miles away. Not to mention they can also shake your house (even if you aren’t too close to them). Between the noise and the shaking, it is not uncommon for fireworks to cause anxiety in our dogs. Thankfully there are ways that you can help keep your dog not only safe but comfortable during fireworks.
Table of Contents
- 1 Signs Your Dog is Afraid of Fireworks
- 2 Natural Reactions to Fireworks
- 3 Ways to Help Your Dog Feel Less Anxious
- 3.1 Before the Event
- 3.2 During the Event
- 3.3 Other Options to Help Your Dog Feel Less Anxious
- 4 Tips
Signs Your Dog is Afraid of Fireworks
- Heavy panting
- Destructive behaviors
- Soiling in the house
The above symptoms are the most common for dogs who struggle with anxiety due to fireworks. Not all dogs will experience these exact symptoms. Some dogs may exhibit their own unique signs they are anxious.
Natural Reactions to Fireworks
Your dogs’ natural reaction is to run from things that scare them. Fireworks are no exception. Fireworks are one of the top reasons that dogs run away from home. In Dylan’s case, he is fear aggressive. So, he tends to run towards the things that scare him.
When we as humans get scared it is a common reaction to scream. Dogs can have the same type of reaction when it comes to being startled by the loud noises of fireworks. Many times dogs will bark at loud noises that they weren’t expecting. It can be one bark or it can be a constant string of barks until the noise is gone.
Ways to Help Your Dog Feel Less Anxious
Before the Event
It is important to make sure that your dog can get their daily walk before the fireworks begin. And it would be great if you can give your dog extra exercise or playtime beforehand as well. Making sure that your dog doesn’t have any pent-up energy will help to decrease the amount of anxiety that is felt during the fireworks.
Getting your dog out for one last bathroom break about 15 minutes before the fireworks are supposed to begin can help to reduce the possibility of an anxious accident in the house. Just be cautious of any practice booms before you take your dog outside.
You want to make sure that you are not at a point of transition with them when the fireworks begin. Making sure that your dog is safely inside (wherever they are going to wait the event out) during the fireworks will eliminate the possibility of them being able to run from you.
During the Event
While being inside doesn’t block out the sound completely it does muffle it a little bit. While you are inside do your best to distract your dog either by petting them, offering small treats, and playing with them during the fireworks.
Closing your blinds or curtains can help prevent them from seeing the fireworks. We find that loudly playing action movies (Transformers marathon anyone?!) really helps Dylan as it drowns out what’s happening outside.
Leave the Area or Get a Pet Sitter
Taking your dog as far from the fireworks as possible will help to ease their anxiety. That can either be going on a short trip (think camping) or going for a drive with your dog.
If you aren’t able to leave the area with your dog, allowing them to visit a friend, family member, or pet sitter who lives further from the fireworks can help to ease their anxiety.
Providing a spot that your dog feels safe in during the fireworks will help to ease some of their anxious feelings. If they are crate trained, then be sure to leave their crate open so they can retreat there if they want to.
Other Options to Help Your Dog Feel Less Anxious
Compression vests or shirts have been scientifically proven to help ease anxiety in dogs. Like many options for both humans and dogs, what works for one may not work for others. With that being said, you may see an improvement in your dog’s anxiety levels with these. They will not completely take it away but, they are designed to help minimize symptoms.
Starting long before the fireworks are supposed to take place you can gently try to desensitize your dog. Desensitizing is done in steps or stages and with plenty of positive edible reinforcements (yay treats!).
Each stage or step is a play session. During the play session, the sound of fireworks is played in the background. This starts at a very low volume and will slowly work its way up. I recommend a couple of sessions at each volume level.
The goal of desensitization is that your dog will eventually associate fireworks as a happy fun time versus a scary situation.
Before using any medications with your dog be sure to speak with your veterinarian. They can help you decide if the medication is right for your dog and the appropriate dosing.
Pheromones can be helpful when it comes to managing your dog’s anxiety. Some of the more common ways that pheromones are used are: diffusing it within your home, adding it to a collar, or as a spray.
Melatonin is used for sleep in humans but it can be used to help ease the anxiety that comes with fireworks in dogs. CBD oil is another option to try. As well as Bach’s Rescue Remedy. The trick with any of these, is that they don’t work for all dogs and you may have to experiment with dosing.
With Dylan, if we know that the noises will be extreme, we will make sure to give him prescription medication several hours before the event. Then depending on how severe the noises are, we use a combination of CBD oil, CBD treats, and Rescue Remedy just to help calm them. But depending on when he gets them, they don’t always seems to work to totally alleviate all of his reactions but they help.
There are several choices when it comes to prescription medication to ease the anxiety that fireworks often cause. Using prescription medication is usually the last resort. If you believe it has come to this, the veterinarian will determine which medication is needed.
We do use prescription medication with Dylan, but this has to be given at least 1.5 hours before the fireworks start, so you should talk to your veterinarian in advance.
- Sometimes being anywhere but home causes more anxiety than staying near the fireworks. If that is the case for your dog, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of your dog being away from home. If you need help deciding, contact their veterinarian and they can help you decide.
- Don’t walk your dog during the fireworks. Even if your dog seems calm and hasn’t shown any prior issues to hearing them it is important to remember that as dogs age their perception of things change and they could become afraid of them.
- Your dog takes cues from you—if you panic during fireworks they will too.
- If you are taking your dog elsewhere during the fireworks, it is important to make sure that they are familiar with the alternative surroundings. If it is somewhere they may not be familiar with, schedule a few daytime visits so they are not brought to or left at an unfamiliar place.
Not all dogs are afraid of fireworks but for those dogs that are it is incredibly terrifying. The best thing you can do for your dog during the times of the year when fireworks are common is to make them as comfortable as possible. Don’t be afraid to reach out to their veterinarian with any questions you may have. As with our human kids, lots of love and snuggles can turn a hard situation into a better one, so love on your fur babies and let them know they are safe. Giving them affection, isn’t promoting negative behaviors.