Dogs and Fireworks

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For many dogs, the fireworks that accompany some holidays can make these celebrations a nightmare. But exactly why are dogs scared of fireworks? We’ve put together five fireworks “fear factors,” as well as ways you can help your petrified pooch stay calm during the festivities.

1. Fireworks Are Loud!

Most fireworks make some kind of loud sound. It’s one of the reasons we love them! These sounds naturally startle dogs, however, especially since they have a more acute sense of hearing than humans.

What you can do about it. For those with dogs-and-fireworks issues, keep your dog indoors away from the noise, ideally in a room where you can turn on music or white noise to drown out those startling sounds.

2. Fireworks Come Without Warning.

Other things that scare dogs come with warnings (think thunderstorms or trips to the vet). But from a dog’s perspective, fireworks disrupt an otherwise enjoyable evening with loud and random pops, bangs and screeches—and without warning! So rather than ask, “why are dogs scared of fireworks?” Maybe the real question is, “Why wouldn’t dogs be startled by them?”

What you can do about it. You can help prepare your dog by exposing him to
recorded firework sounds. The only downside is that you’ll need to start months in
advance and, over time, gradually increase the volume while rewarding your dog for keeping calm.

3. Fireworks Present a Threat.

Because fireworks are loud and unexpected, many dogs perceive them as a real threat, which triggers their “flight” response. They may even show signs of anxiety and restlessness, like panting, whining and pacing.

What you can do about it. A calming, comforting presence can make all the difference for our dogs. Stay close and make sure you’re putting off positive, relaxed energy. After all, getting upset or anxious won’t help our dogs, and fireworks aren’t a real threat to them anyway.

4. The Dog Feels Trapped.

Related to the previous reason, if fireworks have triggered a dog’s flight response but he can’t escape the threat, his fear and anxiety will contin- ue—at least as long as the fireworks continue.

What to do about it. The best solution is to remove your dog from the situation ahead of time. If you have friends or family who live in areas that are familiar to your dog —and where fireworks are rare—let him spend his Fourth there.

5. The Dog Feels Vulnerable.

Again, if your dog senses that fireworks are a threat to his safety and doesn’t have an escape route, he will naturally feel vulnerable. At the end of the day, this is probably the simplest answer to the question, “Why dogs are afraid of fireworks?”

What you can do about it. If you can’t remove your dog from the fire- work festivities in advance (see #4), there are a few other tactics to help him stay calm:

  • Keep him in his crate. If your dog is crate trained, he may feel most secure in his crate with a nice chew toy to occupy his time.
  • No crate? Prepare a special area. Put your dog’s bed in a calm place, like a closet or corner, and turn on some music or a sound machine at a volume that will mask the fireworks outside (see #1).
  • Try a Thunder Shirt® or another calming wrap. These are like swad- dles for dogs, designed to help them feel secure during stressful situ- ations. Talk to your vet about the best way to introduce it to your dog in advance so it will be effective when he needs it.Dogs and fireworks may not mix well, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s Fourth can’t be enjoyable. These tips keep you prepared to help your Bud- dy remain calm and safe this Independence Day.