Dogs and Fireworks: How to Keep Your Dog Calm This 4th of July
Understand Why Fireworks Scare DogsFireworks are loud! A dog has much better hearing than a human, so the booms, cracks, and whistles can terrify and cause him emotional and perhaps physical distress. Your pup can also smell the smoke. It's estimated that dogs' sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans. You can't explain to your furry friend that these loud sounds and weird scents are a celebration. He may be thinking the world is ending.
What's more, while you may know the fireworks are coming, your pup doesn't. To him, they're surprising and startling. Your doggo may perceive the noise and unpredictability as a threat. He may try to fight by barking or try to run away. If he has no place to hide, he may feel trapped, adding to the stress he feels.
Sometimes dogs and fireworks do get along, and some pups may tolerate fireworks well, especially at a distance. Others may bark and charge toward the strange noises. Some fearful dogs will quiver and hunker down to hide. Others panic and try to bolt. This panic is extremely dangerous and can lead to your dog getting injured or lost.
Your pup is more likely to be afraid of fireworks if he is afraid of thunder or other sudden, loud noises. The best way to keep your fur buddy out of harm's way during any event that involves fireworks is to assume he will be stressed. Plan ahead to make it a positive experience. This will help prevent him from running away, panicking, or getting hurt.
Prepare for the Fireworks Beforehand
Preparation ahead of time is the best way to help your pup not have an adverse reaction to fireworks. This is true on occasions when you're expecting fireworks, like the Fourth of July. It's also true when fireworks start up without warning and you get caught by surprise. Anticipating his responses can also help keep a fearful dog from getting too upset. No strategy is 100% effective, but almost all of them work better if implemented before your pal starts to get stressed out.
It's easier to keep a calm dog calm than it is to soothe a stressed dog back to a relaxed state.
Try desensitizationWhile desensitization may work best when you bring home a new puppy, it can help pups of any age overcome their fear of fireworks. Start by doing something fun, like playing with his favorite toy. Then put on videos or recordings of fireworks, thunderstorms, or other loud noises at a low volume. As long as he is still enjoying the playtime, increase the volume a little bit each day. You can also give him a special chew or treat when playing the recordings. This will help your pal to associate the sound of fireworks with positive things. If your pooch starts to react fearfully to the recordings, turn the volume down until he is comfortable then proceed more slowly.
Make a secure placeMost pups like to have a den of some sort where they feel cozy and secure. A crate is an obvious choice for most dogs and the most secure. Do basic crate training to get your pup used to spending time in his crate. Set it up with a comfy blanket, water, and some toys.
When you know there are going to be fireworks, you can put your pal in his crate with a toy or chew while he hangs out in his secure spot. Prepare the space in advance by setting up a speaker to play calming music or move the crate to be near a TV to give him something to listen to. This will make the fireworks less obvious when they start. It may also keep him calm and hopefully prevent him from bolting out a door or window.