Once summer rolls around and the 4th of July approaches, fireworks season has officially begun. Depending on where you live, this can be limited to a fireworks show or two, or—as is the case of many city centers—a profusion of celebrations that could last days. Fireworks are fun for us. For dogs, these displays can be sources of stress. More pets go missing on July 4 and 5 than at any other time of the year. But, with a little planning, you can make these times safe and as stress-free as possible.
Why are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
For us, we can usually anticipate the big explosions and loud boom of a firework, but when we’re startled by one, we usually know what it is and not to be afraid of it. To a dog, a loud boom is startling to their sensitive hearing and they have no frame of reference as to what is happening and if they’re at risk. While not all dogs are bothered by their loud and sudden bangs, here are a few factors that may make your dog scared of fireworks:
They’re Loud: Since dogs have a more acute sense of hearing than humans do, loud booms, crackles and whistles can be alarming and confusing.
They’re Sudden and Unpredictable: As humans, we expect fireworks on certain holidays, like the Fourth of July, but to your dog, they’re completely out-of-nowhere. They explode at random intervals, often with accompanied with a bright flash and can make a wide range of sounds, which prevents your dog from getting used to them.
Dogs can Smell Them: According to pet behavior scientist Annie V., “dogs’ sensitive noses also pick up on the burning smells associated with fireworks, which may heighten anxiety.”
Tips to help your dog stay calm during fireworks:
- Create a safe, calm space where the dog can’t easily see or hear the fireworks.
- A tired dog is generally a happy dog, so take some time during the day to give your dog a long walk or extra strenuous play session.
- Give your dog a treat or a favorite toy to distract them.
- Consider getting a calming wrap or weighted blanket.
- Play gentle music to help calm the environment and mask sounds.
- Act calm yourself. Your dog looks to you for reassurance. Staying calm will help them know how to behave.
- If your pet is extra sensitive to auditory stimuli, speak with your veterinarian about supplements or medications that may help.
Fireworks can be scary, but by understanding the issue and doing some small things to help, your dog will be just fine.