While the bright flashes and big booms from fireworks can be fun for people, for dogs they can be disorienting, confusing and even frightening.
So, whether it’s the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve or any other festive occasion where the loud booms and crackles of fireworks fill the air, it’s important to be mindful of any dog scared of loud noises and keep an eye on how they’re coping.
Here are some of the reasons why dogs are afraid of fireworks and how you can help them cope.
Reasons Dogs Are Scared of Fireworks
Fireworks Are Loud
Dogs have exceptional hearing. If a dog comes running to the sound of a crinkling food wrapper from a different part of the house, you can imagine how sensitive they are to firecrackers.
Similar to thunder and lightning the noise that fireworks make is loud and unexpected and puts many dogs on edge.
Most of the time, people are expecting fireworks before they go off. If it’s the Fourth of July, many people can’t wait to either start lighting them or go to a fireworks show.
But dogs have no frame of reference. To them, it’s just another day and when the loud noises and flashing lights start, they have no idea what’s happening or why.
Plus, the loud noises and flashing lights sound and look different every time and come at seemingly random intervals, so dogs can’t get used to them.
The noise and unpredictability of fireworks lead many dogs to perceive them as a threat. This triggers their fight-or-flight response. Your dog may bark at the noises or try to run away and hide. They may also show other signs of anxiety too, like restlessness, panting, pacing or whining.
Fireworks Can Make Dogs Feel Trapped
On some holidays, fireworks are inescapable, depending on where you live. So, if the noises trigger your dog’s flight response, they may try to run from the threat.
In fact, more dogs run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, but often dogs are indoors and have nowhere to escape the loud booms.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe & Calm
- Keep Your Dog Inside: Even if your dog spends most of their time outdoors, bring them inside during fireworks displays. This will prevent them from running away when they feel scared, which can put them in danger.
- Create a Safe Space: If your dog is crate-trained, make their crate available, as that’s probably already a safe space for them. If not, put him in a bathroom or other small room with music or white noise to help drown out the boom of fireworks. Bringing their bed, blankets and toys into the room might also make them feel more comfortable.
- Try a Calming Wrap: Calming wraps, vests and shirts apply light, constant pressure. Many dogs find this soothing and calming.
- Desensitize: Try working with your dog well in advance of firework-heavy holidays to desensitize them to fireworks and other loud noises. You can start this process by playing fireworks sounds on a low level while playing with your dog and giving them treats. Over time, slowly increase the sound of the fireworks during these play sessions.
- Make Sure They’re Microchipped and Wearing a Collar: It’s critical to ensure people can identify your dog and contact you if they run off in fear. Getting them microchipped well in advance of such holidays is always a good decision. It’s also a good idea to make sure they’re wearing their collar and their ID tags are up to date.
Not all dogs are afraid of fireworks, but it’s important to remember your dog will take cues from you. If you make a big deal out of them when your dog is otherwise calm, they may eventually develop anxiety about fireworks. So, try to keep your dog calm and remember to remain calm yourself.
When you understand why dogs are scared of fireworks, you can better address your dog’s fears and help him stay calm. See our Pet Expertise page for more tips on safety, care and more.