Dogs don’t like fireworks, and they scare the hell out of them. Noise phobia is a real thing for dogs, either caused by fireworks or thunderstorms. Dogs have a hard time dealing with loud and unpredictable noises accompanied by bright lights. Even the most confident of dogs can act cowardly when they hear the loud bangs of fireworks. Fortunately, you can help your dog react better in these situations and get them loving rather than dreading the festive period.
Make Your Dog Familiar with the Sounds of Fireworks
If you have a few weeks before the 4th of July or before a celebration that’s going to involve fireworks in your neighborhood, then you can start getting your dog acquainted with the sound of fireworks. This process is known as desensitization. Try the following ideas to get started.
Get a Recording of Loud Fireworks
Play the video on a low volume a couple of times during the day. Play the sound of the fireworks around your dog when it’s engaged in fun activities such as during meals, treats, games, or cuddle. For several days, slowly begin to increase the volume of the recording of the firework during your dog’s fun activities.
If your dog begins to appear fearful of the sound of the fireworks, reduce the volume to a point where it’s no longer uncomfortable. Repeat this a few times during the day until your dog can comfortably hear the sound of fireworks at a high volume and remain relatively calm.
Note that a recording of fireworks cannot be compared to the sound of a real one. Regardless, the idea is to play the recording to reduce the anxiety and fear triggered by fireworks.
Help Ease Your Dog’s Fears
If you haven’t had the time to desensitize your dog to fireworks, or if it hasn’t worked, you can try a few other things. These tips may help dogs that experience mild to severe fear of fireworks.
Act the same when the fireworks go off. Most times, we are tempted to cuddle, soothe, pet, and reassure a fearful dog. However, this habit only helps to reinforce and validate the fear in your dog. When a firework goes off close to you, act normal and don’t pay attention to your dog’s anxiety.
Try to not react to the fireworks too. If you scream, shout or jump when a firework goes off, you will only end up scaring your dog more. This is because your dog may interpret your body language as a sign of fear.
Dampen the sound of the fireworks. Turning up the radio, TV, or singing loudly (sounds your dog is comfortable with) can help dampen the sound of the firework and help your dog feel calmer. You may also want to consider getting noise-blocking ear muffs for your dog.
Don’t force your dog to be brave. If your dog chooses to hide, stay away or remain alone, then don’t force it to go closer to the firework in an attempt to make it brave. This can make the fear worse, and the dog may begin to exhibit aggressive behavior.
Handling a Dog’s Acute Fear of Fireworks
You may personally be unable to help a dog that exhibits extreme phobia for fireworks. If your dog falls under this category, then you must talk to your veterinarian about a suitable solution such as a medication. Your vet may prescribe a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help your dog feel better when the fireworks are on.
Sometimes, the only answer to helping your dog through the festive season is medication. Nevertheless, you can prepare by desensitizing your dog ahead of time. Also, a trainer or behaviorist may help. In some extreme cases, you may never be able to fully cure your dog of this phobia, but you might help reduce your dog’s anxiety and fear.
Keep the Dog at Home
Regardless of your dog’s disposition to fireworks, it’s always best to leave them at home if you are heading out to see fireworks. A terrified dog may bolt to seek shelter if taken to a firework show. Many animal shelters report a high number of lost dogs around July 4th.
Before you head out, ensure your dog is in a safe, comfortable, and escape-proof space (a comfortable locked door or their crate). If possible, try to drown the sound of the firework with white noise or any other sound your dog is familiar with.