How To Calm Your Dog During Fireworks Season
4th July is coming... While we love a big celebration, the loud noises of fireworks can be terrifying to dogs. A stressed-out dog usually means a stressed-out household – but we can help. Here are some suggestions for keeping your dog calm during the fireworks season. If you have any tips to add to our list, we’d love to hear them!
Why Do Dogs Get Scared Of Fireworks?
Our dogs may be cute and domesticated, but they’ve kept some traits from their wild ancestors.
In a wolf pack, loud, sudden noises signal immediate danger. So the wolves developed a biological response. A noise triggers a “fight or flight” response in the animals. This means a surge of adrenalin, preparing the body to defend itself; their options are to stand and fight or hide and tremble until the adrenalin is used up.
Dogs (and humans) still respond in this way to a threat. On fireworks night, your dog hears unexpected sounds – probably even more than you do, since their hearing is exceptional. They’ll get that adrenaline surge and have nowhere to run from it.
Will your Spaniel or Beagle be terrified when they hear the gunpowder charge? Yes; gun dogs can be scared of fireworks too. If they’re not used to gunshot sounds (through training which should begin at an early age), they’ll often have the same biological response as other dogs.
The Effects Of Fireworks On Dogs
When they’re stressed by firework sounds, dogs might:
1: Chew and become destructive. Stressed dogs find activities to keep them moving – much like humans who bite fingernails or jiggle their feet. This nervous energy sometimes results in chewing stuff around the house, so you may find a worried dog gnawing a table leg. Stealing things is another way that dogs respond to stress – some things they’ll steal for comfort (like an owner’s jacket) and sometimes they’ll steal to get attention (like the TV remote). Dogs often look for extra attention when they are stressed, although it’s not always wise to reward them for destructive behaviors. See below for more on responding to stress.
2: Find a place to hide. Hiding is a natural response to fear, in dogs as well as humans. Your dog may retreat to a safe place or somewhere that is enclosed, possibly away from windows. They might curl up on a bed or they might find a place they’ve never sat before! Dogs who depend closely on their owners might try to climb onto the couch to stay in physical contact. All these are caused by your dog’s inclination to seek security. You can help by staying calm as they’ll pick up on your energy.
3: Tremble or pace. Stress can cause trembling, all over or just in their legs. It’s perfectly normal for dogs to shiver when they are frightened (and sometimes when they’re excited, too).
4: Other physical signs of stress... A stressed dog might pant excessively, stand rigid, widen their eyes, whine or bark. If they are conditioned to deal with stress they might find a distraction – like going out to urinate or licking themselves or someone else. These are all natural symptoms caused by stress and you don’t need to worry unless they become more permanent.
Planning A Firework Display? Be Considerate.
In many states, fireworks are controlled by legislation. But if they’re permitted in your area and you plan to hold a 4th July display, follow some sensible guidelines to support your local dog-owners. Always be aware of the hidden problems that fireworks can cause inside people’s homes.
- Warn neighbors of the date and time for your firework display.
- Keep the display short and punctual, not spread over an hour.
- Choose silent or quiet fireworks.
How To Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks
If your dog is stressed by fireworks, there are several remedies that you can try. For serious cases, we would always recommend consulting your veterinarian. If you want to try some natural therapies, here are some suggestions:
- Give them a safe space. Pull the blinds, close the doors, and give your dog a comfortable and secure place to be – some like blankets and some like to lie on laundry that smells of their owners!
- Switch on the radio. Some dogs will be distracted from loud sounds by music. You could try classical music, but one study suggested that dogs find Reggae calming too – and it will contain drums, which can help to muffle firework sounds. Some experts suggest “desensitizing” your dog by introducing loud sounds or music gradually in advance of the fireworks season. If you choose this option, make sure you start gently so that your dog never becomes stressed. We would never recommend deliberately inducing anxiety.
- Don’t reward stressed behavior. It can be difficult but most experts suggest that you don’t make too much fuss over a stressed dog. Over time, your dog might learn that it’s a good way to get extra attention, and their stressed behavior will become ingrained. However, dogs also pick up on our feelings and moods. So the best thing you can do is stay calm, talk in a low or neutral voice, and sit near your dog. Don’t stroke the dog or play with them; just be close (if they want you to) and quiet. Model the calm attitude that you want to see in your dog.
- Try aromatherapy. Sounds strange but it can help dogs the way it helps humans. Lavender contains active ingredients (linalool and linalyl acetate) which have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression in mice. Undiluted lavender oil can be irritating to skin and should never be used on dogs. Instead, you can add drops to a diffuser or even beneath your dog’s bed (so it won’t touch their skin).
- Give your dog an anti-anxiety supplement. Harmony is our supplement for tranquility. It contains L-theanine and Relora, which are known to balance hormones and alleviate anxiety. Start sprinkling it over your dog’s food regularly to see the benefits – it is flavored to taste like broth, and your dog will likely enjoy it.
- Prepare for the fireworks season. Getting some of these measures in place will mean you’re ready for fireworks.