Dogs and fireworks are typically not a good mix. Though fireworks are a stunning display for us, they can be downright threatening to puppies and dogs. This is because the unpredictable loud noise of fireworks triggers your canine companion’s fight or flight response, causing them to bark, hide, or show other signs of fear.
In this guide, we will go into tips and tricks you can use so that New Year’s, Canada Day, Victoria Day, and other holidays are enjoyable for you and your furry best friend.
1. Desensitize Your Dog to Fireworks Beforehand
Some dogs can be desensitized to fireworks while others won’t be. Either way, preparing your dog through gradual fireworks desensitization is worth a shot.
In this following method, you will try to condition your dog positively to the sound of fireworks days before the occasion. Give your dog treats while playing a video of fireworks with sounds. The sounds are mainly what startles dogs the most, so start with a low volume and gradually increase the volume as the days pass by.
Furthermore, only increase the volume once your dog shows signs of getting used to the stimuli. It is also advisable to use different videos to mimic the unpredictable pattern of real fireworks.
Stop the process if your dog continually shows signs of panic or fear at the low volume setting for a prolonged period of time; this can indicate that your dog is not responding to the process. If you still have time and want to explore options for helping your dog get past anxiety, consider talking to an expert trainer.
2. Keep Dogs and Fireworks Separate
There should be as much separation between dogs and fireworks as possible. Therefore, do not leave your dog outside when fireworks are going off and avoid taking your dog to fireworks shows.
In addition, take your dog for a walk before the fireworks start and make sure that your dog is on a secure leash. A secure leash will prevent your dog from running off and getting lost in the case early fireworks go off.
Once the fireworks begin, and you’re at home, close some of your drapes or blinds to visually separate your dogs from the flashes of the fireworks, which can scare them.
3. Mask the Sound of Fireworks
Leave your industrial fan on for white noise or turn up your TV or sound system for background noise. As an added precaution, if you’re playing music or movies, opt for something relaxing so that it does not add to your dog’s panic.
Furthermore, before the occasion itself, make sure that your dog is already accustomed to the white noise or background noise you plan to use. This way, they will not be startled by unfamiliar stimuli.
Another alternative would be purchasing noise cancelling headphones for your pooch as they do have the options available for dogs which can be just as effective as noise sensitive individuals.
4. Calm Your Dog Down – But Also Act Normal
Calming your dog down while fireworks are going off is a delicate balancing act. For one thing, as an animal with heightened senses, your dog may be able to pick up subtle cues if you are, yourself, distressed.
Petting your dog with long, calm strokes can help ease your dog’s anxiety. Pair this with comforting words spoken slowly and evenly. Avoid reassuring your dog with high-pitched or rapid words, as this can cue your dog that you are afraid, thereby compounding their fear as well.
Every now and then, you can use the above practices to calm your dog, but the other aspect of this is acting normal. Act as if fireworks are an everyday occurrence. Comfort your dog when they are within reach or when they come to you. But should they opt to hide, leave them alone and simply check on them every now and then.
5. Consider Getting Your Dog an Anxiety Wrap or Calming Bed
Anxiety wraps or anxiety vests can work on some dogs. These function by wrapping around the dog with the right pressure, simulating the feeling of being held. Calming beds work quite similarly by cradling the dog in such a way that gives a sense of reassurance and warmth.
If you want a more revolutionary but safe approach, try Calmer Canine®, a gentle and drug-free treatment system for canine anxiety.
6. Create a Safe Haven for Your Dog – But Do Cage Them In (H2)
As den animals, dogs will instinctively look for a safe space to get away from overwhelming scenarios. Set up a safe space, days before the fireworks, that’s away from the windows and the commotion. You can put your dog’s crate in this safe space if your dog is crate-trained. Make sure to include their favourite toys, treats, or puzzle toys with treats to keep the dog engaged in the safe space.
Remember that this is a safe space and not a holding facility. Do NOT close the crate or lock the room. The dog may injure themselves if they get overwhelmed and try to escape. Some dogs actually prefer to be with you instead of running to their safe space when the fireworks go off. Make sure to give your dog that choice.
7. Make Sure Your Dog Has Proper Pet ID
In some unfortunate situations, dogs that are too spooked will find a way to escape and run off. To prevent losing your canine companion, make sure that your dog has a proper pet ID that can be located using GPS.
8. Consider Talking To a Trainer or Vet
If you are worried that your dog’s anxiety is too severe, you can seek professional help. If a trainer can help ease the dog’s anxiety around fireworks (or other similar stimuli), this is far better than being dependent on medication. However, in the few cases where an expert trainer’s approach doesn’t work, you can either seek other trainers or speak to your vet and look into medication options.
Just like people, all dogs are unique in how they see the world. Some may cope better with fireworks (and other loud sudden noises) than others. Just remember that your patience and thoughtful attention to your dog’s needs go a long way. At PuppyViewer, we are here to help. Check out the resources that we have on our blog for more useful tips on raising a happy and healthy dog.