How to calm a dog during fireworks
Fireworks may be fun for human participants, but the loud noises and blinking lights of holiday fireworks mean absolute horror to many dogs – so much so that after hearing fireworks, many dogs go away. If you’re wondering how to calm a dog down during fireworks, we have help for you starting before the fireworks even start.
Our dog Irie was always afraid of fireworks (as well as thunder, gunfire and other loud noises). We were able to manage their fears with a variety of techniques, patience, and products.
Before the fireworks start
Desensitize your dog to fireworks
If you have a dog who is afraid of fireworks – or a young dog who has never seen fireworks – desensitizing your dog to the sound is a process that, like any training, takes some time. Your goal is for your dog to equate the sound of fireworks with FUN to minimize anxiety.
Here is a video with fireworks. (I used similar videos when introducing all kinds of sounds to our dog Barli – construction work, ambulances, fire trucks, etc.)
You should play the video at a time when you can interact with your dog and give him super tasty treats that he normally doesn’t get. (LIVER works great!)
Turn on the video and pamper your dog with a happy, optimistic voice. Give your dog the treats one at a time in tiny pieces (smaller than a pea).
If your dog appears stressed, turn the volume down or stop completely and practice another time. Little by little he learns to associate the fireworks with delicacies and positive feelings.
Talk to your veterinarian
If your dog has shown strong signs of stress – panting, drooling, running around the house – talk to your veterinarian about calming down prescriptions.
Your dog may not have to rely on tranquilizers forever, but helping your dog calmly overcome their fireworks fears will not only make them safer during the fireworks display, but also desensitized their fireworks fears for the months to come overcome.
Check your dog’s ID tag
Whenever there is a chance of fireworks (including days before and after the actual holiday) our dogs are inside wearing their collars and tags. Lots of dogs run out the door at the first fireworks display, so it’s definitely time to keep these tags on your dog!
Check out calming products
We put compression garment on our dog Irie before the fireworks started. We use a Thundershirt (see below). You’ll want to put the thundershirt on before the fireworks start so that you can prevent anxiety rather than trying to bring your dog back from an anxious state.
If you don’t have a diaper dress, you can improvise with an ace elastic bandage. Wrap your torso like a hug (not tight). A t-shirt, dog sweater, or other item of clothing can also be used to provide the swaddling sensation.
Consider buying soothing products before your vacation:
We have reviewed this soothing jacket several times here on DogTipper. You can check our rating.
The Anxiety Wrap is designed to use both acupressure and gentle diaper pressure to soothe your anxious dog with a thin fabric that is of particular interest to anyone concerned about the summer heat.
Adaptil, DAP collar (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) This collar contains pheromones similar to those made by a nursing mother to help calm her pups. The collar is worn continuously unless the dog is shampooed.
On the day of the fireworks
Go early and then go in
Take your dog for a walk EARLY before the risk of stray fireworks (a long walk to tire your dog is a good idea) – then get your dog inside.
Drown the noises
Turn the TV on louder than usual and leave it on all night.
Dim the light
If you live lit by fireworks, make sure your dog is either in a room with no windows or one with blackout curtains. The flash of fireworks (just like lightning) can be scary for some dogs.
Distract your dog
If your dog is not too nervous to be pampered, distract your dog with tasty treats and a long-lasting chew (we use bully sticks as well as stuffed KONG toys).
Provide a small, safe place
If your dog has crate training, a crate can be a calming, quiet place to weather the storm of fireworks.
If your dog is not trained in the crate, even a small windowless closet can be comforting. Dogs love to hide under hanging clothes. Your scent will calm you down.
Control hectic running
If your dog is frantically running around the house, consider putting your dog on a leash and walking from one end of the house to the other. Have stairs? Walk up and down with your dog on a leash.
Not only does this help rid your dog of nervous energy, it also prevents dogs from multitasking so they can focus on walking.
Put potty needs indoors
If your dog is nervous, you don’t want to leave him outside (and our dogs refused to go outside to potty during fireworks). We put pee pads on the doorstep.
Yes, you will read advice not to pamper dogs that are afraid of fireworks – but cuddling is not pampering. Cuddling is a friend who reassures another during a difficult time.
With our Irie, I tried to encourage her to snuggle up on the couch. That worked often; She was a tall girl, but she liked to hide behind me and lay between my back and the back of the couch for a sense of security.
What if you are not home during fireworks?
Bark Busters has a list of helpful tips on how to help your dog out with fireworks when you are not home:
When you’re gone
- When going to a fireworks show, leave your dog at home where it is safest and most comfortable.
- When going to a holiday event, never leave your dog in the car. A partially open window does not provide enough fresh air and creates the possibility of your pet being stolen.
- Hire a pet sitter to stay with your dog when you are not home.
Preparing your home
- Don’t leave your dog outside. If you can’t get him inside, cover his kennel with a blanket to protect him from bright lights and loud bangs. A dog’s sense of hearing is acute – about four times more sensitive than that of humans.
- Create a special cave-like area in your home that your dog will feel safe in. A properly introduced crate or kennel can be a comforting refuge for him.
- Some dogs become destructive when they are scared. If you’re not using a crate, remove any items in the room that could destroy your dog or that could injure him if he chews them.
- Keep windows and curtains closed to reduce noise and bright lightning.
- Turn on a television or radio at normal volume to distract your dog from loud noises and help him relax.
- If possible, stay with your pet during most of the fireworks display. A dog often reacts more intensely to loud noises and flashes of light when you are not with them.
Make sure your dog doesn’t run away
- Always keep the correct ID securely on your dog’s collar in case he gets out. Talk to your veterinarian about implanting a universal microchip in your pet and make sure your veterinary clinic and shelter have your correct contact information in their database.
- Keep your dog away from the front and back doors. Your dog can be under significant stress, which can cause unnecessary injury to others or cause him to jump out the door.
Remember, animal shelters see large numbers of lost dogs in the days after the fireworks show. Make this a safe vacation for you and your four legged family members!