The 4th of July for dogs isn’t all fun and games: Around 45% of dogs suffer from a phobia of fireworks.
As long as fireworks displays are a big part of the celebrations on days like the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, it’s important to know how to calm a dog during fireworks. Join us as we take you through some of our top tips for making Independence Day as pleasant as possible for your pooch.
Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
Most of us have felt helpless at the sight of our terrified dog, scared of fireworks; shaking, barking and frantically pacing around. In fact, any loud noises and flashes can trigger these responses: Thunderstorms are frequent offenders, but fireworks are often even scarier because dogs don’t have the change in barometric pressure to warn them of the incoming noise.
So, the question remains, why are dogs afraid of fireworks?
While no definitive cause is agreed upon, many believe that dogs’ acute sense of hearing means they are extra sensitive to these sounds. These noises can trigger an increased heart rate, a rush of adrenaline and an increase in stress hormones circulating through the body.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to make our dogs feel as comfortable as possible before the fireworks start.
How To Calm a Dog During Fireworks
Every dog is unique and reacts differently to different techniques, so try a few of these great options for calming your dog during fireworks, and don’t be afraid to mix and match!
Try a Little Tenderness
Don’t leave your dog home alone — make sure at least one trusted person is keeping your pets safe.
Never punish a dog for being afraid. Instead, calm your dog and show him love and affection. Giving cuddles, massages and petting can help: Long, slow, firm strokes along the length of the body are a particularly good way to soothe any fear and anxiety your pooch may have. Be consistent and careful not to praise your dog for exhibiting a fear response, as this can make it worse.
If you want to divert your dog’s attention with toys, make sure you play with them in a relaxed manner and don’t overstimulate them. There’s a fine line between distracting your dog and getting them more worked up!
Keep your dog calm by masking the noise with music. If you’re wondering which playlist to throw on for your bestie, look no further than Through a Dog’s Ear — music that has been specifically designed to calm dogs down.
This classical music has been shown to have a calming effect on dogs, but one 2017 study suggests if you really want to keep your dog relaxed, get them Jammin’ with Bob Marley. Yep… reggae music (and soft rock) reduces stress, barking and heart rates. Gilly Mendes Ferreira, the SPCA’s head of research, speculates this is because “those genres have a rhythm that is similar to the dogs’ own heart rate. When a puppy is feeling stressed it will snuggle into its mother and use her heartbeat as relaxation, so this music mimics that.”
One way to help your dog feel safe is to keep him inside and as far from the noise as possible.
If, when your dog is scared, he runs to a special place, make it as comfortable as possible. If he doesn’t already have a safe space, find somewhere away from any windows and turn it into a personalized little den.
You could add a crate or a basket, blankets and toys, long-lasting chews or maybe some treats. Switch on the television (or some music!) and let him stay there for as long as he wants.
If he circles and scratches before slumping down into the blankets, don’t worry — this is just a part of his nesting instinct.
Some dog owners turn to over-the-counter treatments like CBD, dog calming treats, pheromone collars or sprays, and even anxiety vests and pressure wraps.
If you know your dog has issues with fireworks and holiday festivities, talking to your vet ahead of time is a good idea. They can put together the best plan to deal with your dog’s anxiety and any other issues.
Hiring a trainer to work with your dog can also be a productive solution if you start far enough in advance.
Dogs’ experiences can shape dogs’ behaviors — so techniques like “desensitization” and “counterconditioning” can be a good idea. They make the sound of fireworks less stressful for your pet by getting her used to the sound.
The idea is to start with firework sounds (find a YouTube video) at a low volume, but loud enough for your dog to notice. Gradually increase the volume until the sound is somewhat similar to what they will experience during a real fireworks display. Remember to vary the source of the sounds (use different speakers, a phone, a television, etc.) and don’t always pick the same video to play.
For lots more detail on how to follow these techniques, check out this handy guide.
Counterconditioning often involves giving your pet a special treat while they get used to the noise. If you’re looking for a treat, you can’t go wrong with Canidae®’s Sustain Jerky Treats: Wild-Caught Salmon Recipe. These delicious treats pack 75% wild-caught salmon, nutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids to support healthier skin and shinier coats. And it’s all guilt-free — as well as using local, responsibly sourced ingredients, they are packaged in eco-friendly bags made from recycled plastic bottles.
Prepare Ahead: Walk Before They Run
The 5th of July is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. It makes sense, right? Dogs can be just like dog owners — fight or flight kicks in when they get scared, and facing off with super loud explosions is never that appealing!
Lost pets have a much better chance of being returned if you make sure they are microchipped and have ID tags on their collar.
It’s a great idea to take your pooch for a walk before sunset, but remember to double-check their leash is secure — you don’t want them to make a run for it when an early rocket is let loose!
Help your dog feel as comfortable as possible this July 4th by trying some of these top tips. While we recommend preparing your pup as early as possible, there are still plenty of ways to soothe a stressed pup on the night. To keep your dog happy and healthy all year round, transition him to Canidae's delicious recipes today!