My wedding anniversary falls on July 4th weekend. My husband and I used to celebrate with a short trip, but not anymore. Not since our pet cam showed my dog, Tampa Bay, shivering and hiding in the closet with my other dog, Justice, standing guard in front of it, constantly barking because of the random fireworks being set off. In our home, dogs and fireworks don’t mix.
My dogs find the noise and the lights terrifying — and they’re not alone. Some dogs — not all — are noise sensitive. Their anxiety can be for short periods or long after the loud noise. Signs include panting, shaking, yawning, seeking comfort from you, hiding, peeing or pooping or even harming themselves. If your dog’s discomfort is minor, there are things you can do at home to help them. If your dog has a more severe reaction, speak to your veterinarian. No dog should have to live in terror on Memorial Day, the 4th of July … or any day when fireworks are present.
An article by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in Psychology Today, discusses the results of a 2015 noise-sensitivity study done in Oslo, Norway, by Linn Mari Storengen and Frode Lingaas from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Biosciences in the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The study found that a bit more than one out of every five dogs was reported to be fearful of noises (loud noises, heavy traffic, thunderstorms and, of course, fireworks). Interestingly, the study of 5,257 dogs (from 17 different breed clubs) found female dogs to be more fearful of noises than males, plus some dog breeds to be more fearful. Of the 17 breeds in the study, those that seemed most afraid were Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, Shiba Inus and Norwegian Buhunds. The study also found that neutered dogs were more likely to be fearful when compared to intact dogs and older dogs were more likely to be fearful than younger dogs. The author concludes that this study suggests that noise-related anxiety behavior may be the result of physiology and heredity.
So what can you do for your dog when the Memorial Day, the 4th of July or another firework-related summer holiday approaches? Here’s what I do. First, I tackle the noise by turning the television up loud and closing all windows and doors. Next, I close all the blinds and curtains so they can’t see the flashes. And last, I give them a chewable natural calming aid. But that’s just me. We reached out to the Dogster Facebook community and asked for their best tips, and we got plenty of them. See if one of these could help you when it comes to dealing with dogs and fireworks:
Drown fireworks out
Go to the basement, and turn on TV, do the laundry so the washer and dryer are running. — Keith Colpitts
Turn the TV louder and run a fan. — Meeghan Duprey
Radio will be turned up on a mellow or classical station. — Gail Bernier
Just before sunset on the 4th, I’ll put on my Apocalypse Now DVD and turn it up as loud as I can stand it. My girl always falls asleep to the sounds of the screaming, helicopters and gunfire within the first half hour and doesn’t even notice when the fireworks start. — Lisa Marie
Take a chill pill (*Discuss these with your veterinarian.)
I use Rescue Remedy. It’s a safe and all-natural liquid made from Bach flowers. If you can’t find it locally, it’s on Amazon.com. I just put a few drops in food or on a treat. It has helped my shy dog immensely. She hates thunderstorms, too. And this stuff calms her down without using Acepromazine from the vet. — Ruthan Blomquist
My vet told me I could use Benadryl on my dogs, but I don’t want people to use it without first talking to their vets. — Rebecca Lord
I put a couple of drops of lavender oil on the outside of Lulu’s collar. I also rub a couple of drops in my hand and let her smell it. It helps calm her during storms and through fireworks. She’s had terrible anxiety since her buddy passed. This helps. — Vicki Toby Collins
My dog takes Sileo for thunderstorm anxiety. According to its website, it also helps for fireworks. — Kelly Conklin (Ed note: Sileo is a canine noise aversion drug by Zoetis. See your veterinarian to discuss.)
Wrap your pup up
I wrap him in his favorite blanket. — Dave Costello
The Thundershirt has helped my one dog in the past. — Barbara Hudson
We turn on the TV and fans. We also don’t leave them home alone. It’s an important time for us to make them feel safe. We’ve found that snug shirts or an Ace bandage help, similar to swaddling. — Angie Stozyk
Give your dog a safe space away from the fireworks
I let her hang out in the bathroom. — Meeghan Duprey
I put the dog in the basement in a kennel with the door closed, or she runs around the house trying to find a safe spot. — Gail Bernier
My dog jumps into my bed and sleeps. My bed and my pillow are the best solution for any scary stuff. Better if I’m in it with him. — Elena Prokhonova
We go to the basement. — Keith Colpitts
As my Akita got older, he became more and more frightened of fireworks and always looked for a place to hide. One night before the 4th, we were out in the yard and a neighbor set off a firework. He took off; he just wanted to get in the car. I let him in the back seat and he was happy. From that point on, whenever the fireworks started, we went and sat in the car together with the engine on and the AC running, so it buffered the sound. He was content to sleep, while I read a book or listened to the radio. This also became our go-to place when storms got really bad as well. — Heather Gembarosky
We go camping at a campground that doesn’t do fireworks. Everybody’s happy! — Tracy Marie
Close all windows. Go into the bathroom, close the door and run the shower or bath, and turn on the exhaust fan if there is one. This is what we do when they test the fire alarms in the building. — Eleanor R. Nespica
Stay calm and carry on
If you have a puppy, and it’s their first 4th of July, act as if nothing is wrong. Do not pet and reassure them with every boom. Have them sit and give a treat. The bigger deal the human makes of it, the bigger deal the dog will, too. Stay calm. What fireworks? — Barbara Ernest
Stay home with your dog
If your dog is gun-shy, pay attention; don’t leave them home alone. — Ron Green
Distract your pup
We have fans on, the AC on, plus music and TV. Animal-friendly, relaxing essential oils are in the diffuser and we get out some really delicious treats and interactive toys and chewing things to distract. Start it all before they hear the first firework. — Stephanie Butler
Get the message out
I typically post something on Facebook about personal fireworks and how they can harm dogs (and some military vets). Hopefully my friends will think twice before buying certain ones or any. — Gail Bernier
Hopefully these tips from other dog lovers will keep you well-armed. We’ll leave you with a few more helpful takeaways for dealing with dogs and fireworks:
- Don’t punish your dog for any fear-related behavior. Also, don’t reinforce the fear by being overly comforting.
- Dogs can learn to be afraid of fireworks from other dogs or people who are afraid, so keep calm and don’t react to the fireworks.
- If your dog has an extreme fear response (pooping, peeing, vomiting or harming himself), see a veterinarian immediately for help.
- Safest bet — don’t take your dog outside when there are fireworks at play. If you do, put him on a leash attached to a harness he cannot get out of. Never tether your dog — it puts him in a position where he can’t get away from another person or dog, plus you aren’t actively watching him.
- Prepare for the unthinkable — an escaped dog. Update his collar and ID, get him micro-chipped if he isn’t and, if he is, update the information. Also update all of his shots in case he bites some helpful stranger out of fear.
- Check out more tips for dogs who hate fireworks from The Whole Dog Journal >>
- Look into supplements from Healthy Solutions for Pets that might help your dog deal with anxiety >>
Thumbnail: Photography by Melissa L. Kauffman.
This article was originally published in 2017.