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Dogs and fireworks aren't an easy pairing. It's only natural to want to include your pooch in festive outdoor fun, but pets and fireworks just don't make the best match. You might already know this if you've seen your pup cower at the sound of thunder, but many dogs suffer from a phobia of loud noises, and the bright flashes of light that accompany fireworks can add to their stress and anxiety. As mentioned in this article, dogs also have a much more sensitive sense of hearing, so those already loud booms to you are much more frightening to your dog. If your dog, like most, runs for cover at the sound of a firecracker, read on to learn how to help them relax.
How to Keep Your Dog Calm and Safe During Fireworks
Pets and fireworks might not go well together, but there are steps you can take so that the explosions have less of an effect on your pup. Here are some dos and don'ts to help manage your dog's stress and ensure their safety during fireworks season:
Do leave them indoors with the windows closed and curtains drawn to help muffle loud noises. If they’re crate trained, shutting them inside the crate and covering it with a blanket might provide an added sense of security and safety, says Positively. If you have a basement that he can be in safely out of earshot of the fireworks, this might be your best option.
Do make sure they get plenty of exercise earlier in the day to expend extra energy that could add to their anxiety when the fireworks start going off.
Do check your fencing to make sure there aren't any openings through which your pooch could escape when you let them out to do their business, suggests Dogster.
Do make sure they are wearing a properly fitted collar and tags with up-to-date information, just in case he manages to run away. It is believed that more pets go missing on the Fourth of July as a result of anxiety, so it is critical to take every precaution to avoid them from running away.
Do provide a fun distraction, such as a favorite chew toy or toy filled with their favorite treat, to occupy their attention while fireworks go off.
Do put the TV or radio on to help drown out the sounds. Music with gentle sounds are typically best to help ease their anxiety.
- Don't let your pup tag along to a fireworks display — no matter how much you'd love for them to be there.
- Don't act any differently or acknowledge their fear. It will only reinforce their anxious behavior.
- Don't let them off of their leash outside of a fenced-in area during fireworks season. If they get spooked, they could run off and end up getting lost.
Desensitizing Your Dog to Fireworks
Dogs and fireworks don't have to be a terrible match — your pooch's fear isn't inevitable. According to research from the University of Bristol, puppies exposed to fireworks are less likely to be bothered by them as adults, reports Do You Believe in Dog? If you have a puppy who's within the socialization window of 4 to 14 weeks, safely exposing them to fireworks could help prevent them from becoming fearful as an adult.
If your dog is an adult, though, it's still not too late to desensitize them through exposure therapy, says The Spruce Pets. It might not eliminate their fear completely, but it can help lessen their anxiety.
Here's how to desensitize your dog: While your dog is engaged in an activity they enjoy, like cuddling or enjoying a dog treat, play at a low volume a video or recording of fireworks going off; do this several times throughout the day. After several days, gradually begin raising the volume — but don't push it. If they seem afraid, turn the volume back down and continue at a slower pace. Keep practicing in this way until your dog can hear the video at a loud volume without becoming afraid.
Dealing With Extreme Phobia
If the above solutions don't help, your pooch may need additional assistance to overcome their fear. Special jackets for dogs have been shown to help comfort them during loud displays such as fireworks or during thunderstorms. Your vet might also have some solutions for how to help keep your dog calm, so it doesn't hurt to call them up and ask.
Stress-Free Fireworks for Fido
When the fireworks start, it's best for your pup to call it a night. Providing a safe, quiet place for him to chill out is one of the best ways you can give your dog a happy holiday.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.