Fireworks are amazing! They go boom and brighten up the darkest of nights. The anticipation of waiting for the next ‘boom’ is part of the excitement. For humans anyway. Dogs on the other hand – not so much. Ever wondered what triggers your dog’s fireworks fears? It’s the same things that have humans enjoying them so much. Learning how to help a dog who is afraid of fireworks is very important for pet parents. Some dogs have small reactions, while others shake and drool. Like most things, fear in dogs is a spectrum. Here’s how to tame your dog’s fireworks fears.
What Causes a Dog’s Fireworks Fears?
It’s important to know that dogs have a fight or flight response just like us. When they are frightened or surprised their bodies trigger a response. If a dog can see the offending item they are more likely to partake in a decision to fight or flight based on personality. So, when they can’t see the offender, their natural response is flight.
To a dog, the noise of fireworks makes them want to retreat from what they perceive as a threat. That’s why it’s important to keep your dog indoors – a dog will run as far as possible from the noise. It’s like when you were a child and got frightened and took off running. You didn’t recall how you got from here to there. A dog will just keep on running until the noise abates.
Again, just like humans, dogs take cues from things that eventually become repeated. Even if they don’t like the noise of say a kitchen timer… They know that when you take the kitchen timer out of the cupboard that it will make a noise they don’t like. Your dog then elects to go under a bed. They can put patterns together. But with fireworks, there are no patterns as this is part of the experience – to shock and awe viewers.
Loud and Threatening
Same as predictability, dogs tend not to enjoy loud, boisterous noises. They feel threatened when their environment is ‘invaded.’ This is exactly what fireworks do – invade the place that is supposed to feel safe. So naturally, a dog will feel threatened. Plus, dogs have an acute sense of hearing. So the noise is magnified. This enhances a dog’s fireworks fears.
Here’s How To Tame Your Dog’s Fireworks Fears
Recalling that each dog is unique, every dog will have a different tolerance for fireworks. Some dogs will quietly hide, others may bark and shiver, and yet others can drool and lose control of their bowels. We need to understand the extreme with which our dog will respond to fireworks in order to properly manage their fears. Here are some tried and true measures to help tame your dog’s fireworks fears.
Keep Your Dog Indoors, Tagged
As mentioned above, a frightened dog will run. So, even if your dog is generally free to come and go from your house, on nights where there are fireworks, make sure to keep your dog indoors. It’s also important that your dog wears a collar with his/her city-issued license and your contact information. While these should always be on your dog, it’s never more important when there is a possibility that your dog will get lost. Some dogs will bolt out of the house with the slightest opening of a door or window.
No matter what happens it’s important that you remain calm. At all times, including when the big booms come. Your dog will pick up on your reaction. If you become excited, even though unfrightened, it can trigger your dog. Drink some tea, sit in your favorite chair and read a book. Do whatever helps to keep you calm and centered. Keep your house calm as well – if you have children that enjoy the sounds and lights, have them join their friends at a neighbor’s house. Close the curtains, put on soothing classical or meditative music and just be chill.
I highly recommend switching out your dog’s water for cooled chamomile tea. This should start an hour or two prior to the fireworks. Chamomile is a natural calmer, even for dogs. Brew strong chamomile tea: 4 tea bags to each cup of boiling water. Allow to completely cool and add a smidge of raw honey to help increase your dog’s desire to drink it.
“I find the tea or tincture especially effective when used in dogs who are prone to stomach upset during episodes of hyper-excitability.” Whole Dog Journal
Calming Wraps or Shirts
You can find these in most pet stores. A calming wrap/shirt apply a light, continual pressure that many dogs find calming. Make sure to get your dog comfortable to the shirt prior to the fireworks. A little practice will help tame your dog’s fireworks fears on the day of the big event. You can make your own wrap with an ace bandage:
- Depending on the size of your dog (wide for large dogs and narrow for small dogs), select an ace bandage.
- Place the middle of the ace bandage across your dog’s chest.
- Bring both ends of the ace bandage up and cross them over your dog’s shoulders. Making an X – the bandage should cross the top of your dog’s shoulder blades. The loose ends will end up under your dog’s stomach.
- Wrap the loose ends under your dog’s stomach and around to the back. Tie the ends over the top of the lower back but not on the spine.
- The fit should be snug, like a hug and should not deter movement.
If your dog isn’t used to a crate or doesn’t have a dog bed/nest under a bed (or chair, or some other safe place), it’s time to get that underway. Don’t wait until the fireworks start to try to acclimate your dog to something new. Again, a little practice will go a long way. Select a room that is towards the middle of the house, like a bathroom. Create an environment that a dog will find safe: blankets on the bottom of the crate and covers on the top and sides will go far. Get your dog used to a crate by introducing treats! A dog should be left to feel safe in a crate – not pulled out nor reprimanded.
Some dogs, no matter what, will shake themselves sick from fireworks. In these advanced cases, we recommend a few tried and true calming products. CBD, which is non-psychoactive, is shown to calm dogs under extreme stress. As does Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Bach’s is a homeopathic tincture made from a combination of five calming flower remedies. Your dog may also respond to lavender-based aromatherapy. However, never let your dog lick essential oils and never place them on your dog.Learn about these great, natural ways you can help your dog overcome his or hear fear of fireworks! Click To Tweet
If Nothing Else Works – Final Steps
If you’ve tried to tame your dog’s fireworks fears to no avail there are some final steps you can take. These include:
- Taking a mini-vacation out in the woods. Rent a cabin where fireworks are banned. This way your dog will not be bothered – and you can relax and enjoy!
- Veterinary intervention is the final step. If you simply can’t take your dog out to the woods, see a veterinarian. Your dog may require clinical intervention to help him or her make it through the big booms and bright lights of fireworks.