Why Are Dogs Afraid Of Fireworks? 5 Ways You Can Help Your Scared, Furry Friend

The fourth of July can be an exciting time in our country. Families gather for barbeques, beach days, and celebrations — typically capping off the night of fun with a fireworks show. However, if you’re a pet owner you may know the added level of fear associated with July 4th. The booming, sometimes unceasing noise of fireworks sends many pets into a panic, leaving them stressed and trembling. Unfortunately, as much as we may want to protect our pets, we can’t control or prevent others from setting off fireworks. So, in order to best care for your stressed pup, we must first dive into what exactly causes this stress response in our pets.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Photoboyko

The Risk

According to a study conducted by PetAmberAlert, the number of lost and runaway pets increases by 30% between July 4th and July 6th every year, with the 5th being the busiest day of the year for local shelters. Certified Pet Detective and founder of PetAmberAlert Mark Jakubczak said, “Sadly, only 14% of lost pets are returned to their owners, according to nationwide statistics. And worse, 30-60% of lost pets are euthanized because they cannot be properly identified and returned to their owners.”

Keeping Your Pets Safe On The 4th of July From PetAmberAlert.com
Photo: PetAmberAlert

Why Fireworks Scare Pets

There is no real deeper meaning behind why dogs and pets in general are afraid of fireworks. The unexpected and unexplained loud noise makes your pet feel trapped and threatened. If there is no room in the house or place outdoors where they can escape the sound, that fight or flight urge will grow that much stronger. Many dogs may bark in response, start whining and pacing, or even try to run away from the threat. In order to help our pets remain calm, we have to mitigate the threat as best as we can. Thankfully, there are a few ways to try and accomplish this.

Keeping You Pet Calm During Fireworks

1. Find A Safe Space

If possible, take a trip with your pet and the rest of your family to somewhere quieter, where fireworks won’t be set off. This can be a friend or family’s home, or even a doggie daycare in another area. Be sure to bring your pet somewhere he’s been before, or you may be adding another factor of stress to the situation.

2. Don’t Leave Him Alone

There may not be another place for you to take your pet. If there’s a party or get-together that you can’t miss, be sure to hire a sitter or ask a friend to stay with your pup at your house. That way, even if he can’t escape the booming fireworks, he’ll have someone to keep him calm and show by example that there is no threat. If possible, bring your pup in to a smaller room, like a bathroom or walk-in closet, where you can bring in his bed and favorite toys. Stay with him and play music or white noise to help drown out the booms. This isn’t an ideal situation, but it may help your pup stay calm and sleep through the worst of the celebrating.

Photo: Adobe Stock/dream@do

3. Desensitize

Though our primary goal is ensuring our pups are safe and healthy, we ultimately want to eliminate the stress response to fireworks altogether. This is something you can start working towards on the days leading up to the holiday by playing firework sounds on your home speakers at a low level while you play with your pup and give him treats. Over time, slowly increase the sound until you reach a level similar to what you hear in your own neighborhood on the 4th. Hopefully, this will allow your pup to associate happy and fun memories with the sound of fireworks, mitigating his fear response.

4. Be Calm and Comforting

Dogs especially rely on social comfort during stressful events, and will look for social cues to determine exactly how afraid or on guard they should be. Remain calm when the fireworks show starts, and if your pup begins to show signs of stress, give him comforting pats or even a long-chew treat to distract him. If you know when the fireworks are scheduled to start, trying expending as much of your pups energy as you can beforehand. Take him on a long walk, or bring him to a dog park to help tire him out and put him in a calmer headspace.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Vitalinka

5. Sedate

For many, this is the last resort if no other tip works. Before turning to medication, however, try an anxiety-reducing shirt or a Thundershirt calming wrap. These weighted vest options work in the same way that weighted blankets help humans. The extra weight mimics the feeling of being tightly hugged or swaddled, which can help soothe anxiety in both humans and dogs. Not only should this help reduce stress, but will hopefully improve your pup’s sleep.

Photo: GreaterGood

Keep your pets mental and physical health in mind this summer. Click below to sign the Friendly Fireworks Pledge and show your pet you care!

Additional Resources