How to Calm a Dog During Fireworks
Do you love to watch fireworks explode across the sky on New Year’s Eve and on the 4th of July? Many people across the world do, but it can be a time of true terror for our dogs. Loud unexpected cracks, flashing lights and that noise a firecracker makes as it shoots up in the air, and then add an extremely sensitive sense of hearing to the mix. What do you get? A terrified dog shivering in a corner. Some dogs suffer more than others, but there are a few things you can do to prepare your pup for festivities and dates when there are likely to be fireworks.
There is a lot that goes into helping a dog overcome a fear, and it won’t be done overnight. Training could work for some pups, while others might need a natural calming treat supplement to get by.
Why Dogs Fear Fireworks
Fireworks are loud, sudden and bright – all of which are known to upset dogs, and especially as it pulls them right out of their regular routine. You may have noticed how attached (to say the least) dogs are to routine, and how they start pacing every day just about the time when you usually feed them or take them for a walk. Dogs know, and they like having a schedule – they like routine – and fireworks simply aren’t a part of what they expect their day to be like.
The dog is also likely to have a natural instinct to flee from danger and from loud sounds, because just like with many other animals – it is in their DNA. Dogs may be domesticated now, and they have been domesticated for hundreds of years, but some instincts simply don’t go away. What happens if you walk out into the middle of the woods and set off a firecracker? The most likely scenario is that any nearby animals will take off running the other way and that birds will lift from the trees they are sitting in and fly off. Taking this into consideration makes the dog’s reactionless far-fetched, only they are locked into our homes and yards with nowhere to go.
Some dogs may show little or no fear; especially if they are hunting dogs that are used to loud sounds, while others are unable to function whenever the neighbors start shooting off their rockets and firecrackers. These dogs need help, as there have been documented cases of severe firework fear having caused devastating consequences, such as strokes and heart attacks. This is not common, but it is a good reason for wanting to help calm your dog down during fireworks.
If your dog suddenly started displaying symptoms of fear whenever there are fireworks outside, then perhaps there could be a medical underlying cause. Recent studies have shown that there might be a connection between pain and discomfort, and sound sensitivities and a dog that is in pain could possibly react stronger to loud noise than they would have if they weren’t in pain. The reason for this is still unknown, but a possible explanation could be that the dog feels more vulnerable when not feeling good.
Before you start experimenting with calming tactics and treatments for dogs that are afraid of fireworks, it is recommendable that you bring the dog to a veterinarian for a regular checkup. Fear of fireworks is common, so it is unlikely to have a medical explanation, but it is best to rule it out first to avoid missing a potentially serious health problem.
It is not unknown that some dog owners opt for leaving town whenever fireworks can be expected, and they may choose to go somewhere remote for days like the Fourth of July and New Year’s (in Sweden, among other countries, some remote hotels even offer rooms to dog owners with fearful dogs for this reason). They simply pack a few things, go somewhere where there are unlikely to be any fireworks, and wait out the “storm,” so to speak – all to prevent their fur friends from having to suffer.
While this is a great idea, it isn’t an option for everyone (due to work commitments and more), and it doesn’t solve the problem if someone would set off fireworks unexpectedly. You will need a backup plan for how to calm your dog down when you can’t get away from the sounds, so even if this is your preferred plan of action – you will want to work on keeping your dog calm also when you are at home.
Keeping the Dog Inside
This should be a no-brainer, but if you have a dog that shows signs of fear and anxiety when someone is shooting fireworks, you want to make sure you keep the dog inside your home with you. Everyone has the right to choose whether to keep a dog living inside or outside (provided they are given proper care), but it is a humane thing to do to bring an outside dog into the house when you expect there to be fireworks, or when you notice them being uncomfortable. If you don’t want the dog to roam freely inside your house, or if for some reason you can’t have the dog inside – do the right thing by offering him a small space (like the bathroom or the garage) until the fireworks stop.
Thousands of dogs get lost every year during the Fourth of July, which is another reason why all dogs should be brought inside long before the fireworks start. Even if your dog isn’t usually scared, he might be this time, and you’d be surprised by how a scared dog will take any opportunity to escape. If you are looking for ways to calm down your dog during an episode of fireworks – take him inside for the night, even if he is normally an outside dog.
Preparing the Dog
You can try to use sounds to prepare your dog for upcoming fireworks. Find a video on YouTube with firework sounds and play it at a low volume throughout the day. This is unlikely to bother your pooch, and as you get closer to nighttime, you might want to turn the volume up a bit – little by little – to help your four-legged pal get used to the sudden noises. This way, if you are both lucky, it might not be such a big deal once the real fireworks start, as you have spent the day building up to it.
When fireworks and the cracks and pops coming from outside are causing your dog discomfort, you want to try and direct their attention away from it. Turn the sound of the TV up to drown out the unpleasant noises or turn on the radio and dance around to your favorite song! If your dog sees you relaxing and having fun, there is a pretty big chance it might relax him a little too; who knows – he might even be up for jumping around there with you! Focus on neutralizing the sound of fireworks, by rewiring the dog’s brain to associate it with a fun time with you.
Bring out the dog’s favorite treats and toys and see if you can get your pup to play with you, or even do some training! This is unlikely to succeed right away, especially if your dog is known to be fearful of fireworks, but it could work eventually with some convincing and stubbornness on your part. Ignore the fireworks, talk with your happy play-voice and try to find a way to break through your pup’s fear so that you can convince him to play with you.
The key here is to play as normally as you can – the way you would play with your dog on any other day, or you could end up unsettling the dog further. If no toys and no treats (use extra delicious treats) seem to work, then this approach probably isn’t the right one for your dog, and you shouldn’t push it. Use common sense and try to read your dog’s reaction.
As mentioned above, severe cases of fear in relation to fireworks can be dangerous for your dog, and it can also make it hard to get enough contact with your pup to start working with him or her. You might need a little help. Veterinarians are frequently asked about sedatives and medication, but these will only temporarily solve the issue, as they will make your pooch so tired that the fireworks won’t be a problem anymore. Might work great for the moment, but wouldn’t it be better to give something that works towards actually fixing the problem?
With natural remedies, like calming chews such as the KarmaPets calming treats, you will be giving your fur friend something that won’t just mask the symptoms and the fear temporarily but help work towards a solution. The function of natural calming remedies revolves around fixing chemical imbalances in the brain, to help remove the negativity associated with fireworks, and replace it with a sense of tranquility and calm. It is basically the same thing that you would be trying to do by distracting your dog and by teaching it to associate fireworks with something positive, and the best part is that it is all natural with no known side effects.
Calming natural remedies can be given about half an hour before you expect there to be fireworks, or you can administrate them directly when it starts, as they are fast-working and seemingly very effective. While calming treats like the KarmaPets chews are not known to have any side effects, it is still best to talk to your veterinarian to make sure they can’t interfere with any other medications given.
Wrapping Techniques & Thunder Shirts
Thunder shirts aren’t just meant to be used when it is storming, but they could also work well for dogs that are afraid of fireworks. The pressure is distributed across the body, supposedly providing the dog with a sense of security, but the effectiveness of these devices seems to depend on the dog. Some dog owners swear by it; saying it helped their pup relax while the sky was exploding with light, but others were disappointed by the results (or lack of thereof).
Providing a Safe Space
Give your dog a cozy place to hide away from everything, if he needs to, and somewhere where he gets to feel safe. If you have a crate at home, this could work as your pup’s little den during these stressful times, but you probably want to avoid locking the door as you don’t want the dog to feel trapped in any way. Another option is to add pillows and blankets to a corner of the room, in the bathroom (and keep the door open) or anywhere else where you think your pup could feel safe.
As mentioned before in this article, the natural instinct for a dog is to run away from danger and loud sounds, so give them a comfortable place to hide.
What Not to Do
Your efforts will do little to nothing for your dog if you are not calm yourself when you are trying to teach them that fireworks are nothing to be afraid of, so avoid displaying any signs of distress, and work on maintaining a calm and composed posture where only good vibes are passed on to your dog.
It can be heartbreaking to see your fur friend shiver in fear, and everyone wants to sweep their pup’s up, hug them and promise them that everything will be okay. However, this is the wrong approach, as your concern and pity will only confirm the dog’s worst fear – that there really is something to worry about.
Be prepared to be patient, and don’t expect to see results the first time you try the tips and techniques mentioned in this article. If your dog is in apparent distress, you should consider using KarmaPet or another natural remedy (always in close communication with a veterinarian), to offer them the relief that perhaps nothing else can. It is easy to be mad and frustrated with people using fireworks, but there isn’t much to do about it, and as responsible pet parents we should instead focus on finding ways to calm our dogs down whenever the sky fills up with light and sound.