3 Tips If You Have a Dog Afraid of Fireworks

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 5, 2024

Dog Afraid of Fireworks

Dog afraid of fireworks is one of the most common requests for help I get the week before the 4th of the July. So im going to show you my secret, step by step method to help your dog get stop being scared of fireworks and remain calm instead.

You will need to have established a marker word for this method, so do that now if you havent already.

But I also wanted to go over why dogs being scared of fireworks is so common (it’s probably not what you think). The great news is you dont have to be a dog trainer to help your dog calm during fireworks.  We will be going over 2 techniques; counter conditioning and how to desensitize your dog.

If you want to get to stopping your dog’s fear of fireworks now, you can skip to the bottom of this story. While you can skip to the end, There is a or watch the video that details how to help if your dog is scared of fireworks.

The best time to help your dog with its fear of fireworks is to start practicing a month or so before the Fourth of July holiday.

Training dog to not be afraid of fireworks is a process that takes some time. Id suggest at least a month for most dogs, but if yours is highly afraid of fireworks, you may need to go slower which can take longer. But starting a month in advance will allow you to provide the most comfort for your dog.

How to Prepare if You Have a Dog Afraid of Fireworks

While our goal is to help your dog stop being scared of fireworks, there are some preventative measures every dog guardian should do before Independence Day. These dog fireworks tips dont teach your dog to stay calm, but can help you make sure your dog stays safe:

  • Get your dog microchipped.
  • Get your dog exercise throughout the day.
  • Use mental stimulation like scent games indoors if your dog is scared to go out.
  • Ensure your dog is wearing their collar with ID tags.
  • Inspect and fortify your fence to ensure its secure.
  • Stay outside with your dog.
  • Lock any doors that your dog may be able to pop open.
  • Discuss the importance of keeping the doors secure with housemates.

Tips That Can Help A Dog Afraid of Fireworks

If you dont have enough time to practice these steps to help a dog stop being scared of fireworks, there are some tips that can help your dog. Most of these focus on helping tour dog stay calm with the noise of fireworks.

  • Avoid going outside when fireworks displays are going on.
  • Exercise your dog early in the day when no fireworks are going off.
  • Do not take your dog to fireworks shows.
  • Hang out with your dog. Often a calming human presence can be of great help.
  • Talk to your dog in a calm, soothing tone.
  • Pet your dog in long, slow strokes. Circles on the chest can be calming.
  • Create a safe place, take your dog to an interior room to help diminish the sounds.
  • Play white noise, classical or easy listening music to cover the sounds.
  • Use a dog anxiety vest / Thundershirt. The restriction helps some dogs feel more at ease.
  • Use a lick mat a couple times a day (Licking can release feel good endorphins).
  • Feed your dog out of a snuffle mat to help drain energy.
  • Get some high value chew items like a bully stick, kneecap, etc. (Chewing also releases feel good endorphins).
  • Check with your Vet to see if they think medications like Trazadone or Gabapentin can help.

What Makes a Dog Afraid of Fireworks

Aside from the obvious large booming sounds and bright flashes, here are other reasons dogs are fearful of fireworks. These can be why your dog develops a fear response to the sounds.

One reason dogs dont like fireworks is the way fireworks are introduced. First off, there is no warning. Dogs are big on warnings. A hard stare is a warning. A growl is a warning. The warning is a dog’s way of communicating something may happen if things dont change.

But when fireworks go off, there is no warning to the dog. Suddenly there is a loud explosion firework noise that comes out of nowhere. Being caught by surprise makes everything else more amplified.

Getting caught off guard also causes a biological response in your dog; cortisol, the stress hormone, is released into your dog’s blood. Adrenaline is also added. These amplify any stimuli and happen without your dog’s intention or control. This makes it almost impossible fo your dog to stay calm when they hear the loud noise.

Another reason to make your dog afraid of fireworks is the duration. We understand the fireworks will be going off for a limited number of days. The dog does not. Suddenly there are explosions repeating over and over. If something startles you, but you dont know what it is and it repeat, it’s going to have a negative impact on you.

That leads to another often unknown reason to make your dog afraid of fireworks; you dont seem to notice. The dog sees the flashes of light or hear the loud booms of the fireworks. They bark, pace, whine or get scared. To your dog, all hell is breaking loose.

But when your dog looks to you for guidance, you dont seem to hear them or be bothered. Imagine how you would feel if something obvious happened that scared you and yet one else seemed to notice!

Signs a Dog is Afraid Fireworks

Dogs react to a fear of fireworks in different ways. Many of their indications are through body language and movements. They can include:

  • Twitchy/ jittery movements
  • Overly sensitive to sounds
  • Trembles or shakes
  • Refuses to eat
  • Wide eyes / non blinking / dialated pupils
  • Follows you around or remains close to people
  • Drooling
  • Whining
  • Barking, often excessivly
  • Pacing / unable to sit or lay down quietly
  • Hiding / cowering
  • Trying to run away
  • Trying to climb up to a higher spot

Some people get frustrated when their dog acts out with any of the above behaviors. It’s important to remember your dog is going through an emotional response and inst acting this way on purpose. Avoid getting mad or even frustrated with your dog as this will almost surely make things worse.

It’s important to recognize when your dog is starting to feel scared or uncomfortable. This is especially important when you are using this method to stop dogs from being scared of fireworks. If you see any of those signs, stop practice and help your dog get back to a calm and relaxed state

Only resume practicing again when your dog is calm, and start off at a lower level of intensity.

How to Raise Your Puppy to Not be Afraid of Fireworks

The absolute best way to make sure you dont end up with a dog afraid of fireworks is to expose them to them at a lower intensity as a young puppy.

Puppies are literally born without the capacity for fear. Its not until 3 week until that emotion starts to develop in dogs. But it takes around 12-13 weeks to fully manifest. And this period of time is referred to as the Critical Socialization Period (3-16 weeks).

During this period of time, dogs who are exposed to things in a positive way once, are comfortable with it for the rest of its life. The key part of that previous sentence is “in a positive way.” If something scares a dog during the Critical Socialization Period (CSP), that can also stay with them for a long time.

It’s important to understand the idea isnt to simply shoot off fireworks when your dog is a puppy. You need to find a way to do it that is less intense, so that it’s not scary. Usually this is achieved by finding a distance your dog is able to sit or take a treat.

Once you have found the right distance, you need to have something positive happen directly after. One of the ways to do this is works for puppies and adult dogs. Simply play the sounds of fireworks being lit off when your puppy / adult dog is eating their food.

Get a few different firework sound files and play them at a low volume as your puppy eats their food. If your puppy stops eating, it’s likely too loud. Turn it off, wait for your puppy to start eating again, then play it at a lower volume.

Once you can find the volume where your puppy eats normally, play it at that volume for the next meal too. The meal after that, raise the volume slightly. Keep using your dog stopping eating as an indicator you raised it too loud. Repeat this process until you are playing it so loud it sounds like fireworks are going off inside your house and your puppy doesn’t care.

How to Help An Adult Dog Get Over a Fear of Fireworks

If you have an adult dog who has already developed a fear of fireworks, you can still help them get over it or greatly reduce their fear. You can use the same method of playing sounds while your adult dog eats their food to help with the sound of fireworks.

But you also need to help dogs learn not to be scared of the sight and smell of fireworks. The same principle of exposing your dog to a lower level of intensity of each of these senses works for the scent and sight of fireworks.

To help them get over a fear of the smell of fireworks, get some smoke bombs that do not have an explosive element. Light the smoke bomb 10-20 feet away from your dog. Be sure to position the dog downwind so the breeze blows the smoke in their general direction. It doesnt have to envelope your dog so dont worry about getting super close.

Toss 20-40 pieces of kibble in some grass upwind of where you will light the smoke bomb and let your dog start licking them up right before you have someone light the smoke bomb. Repeat this a handful of times but dont get so close your dog stops eating / looking for the treats.

The final step is to help a dog not be scared of the sight of fireworks. To do this, you will need a firework that emits a shower of sparks but also does not have an explosion. We want to isolate the flashes of light exclusivly for this one.

Find a location where your dog can see the firework being safely set off outside a window or class door. Have a handful of high value treats or a spoon with peanut butter or cream cheese on it. Have someone light the firework off then hold the treats / spoon up so your dog is looking in the direction of the fireworks.

Make sure you have enough treats or peanut butter / cream cheese so that it lasts the duration of the firework going off. If your dog stops eating or backs away, again this is an indicator your dog is too close and the sight it too intense. Let your dog move away and wait until they are completely relaxed before trying again with he firework further away or your dog positioned further away from the door or window.

The summary video below will walk you through all 3 steps to help your dog stop being scared of fireworks.

Early Practice is Crucial to Help a Dog Afraid of Fireworks

Keep practicing each elemental exercise until your dog is not bothered by the sight, sound or smell of fireworks. This will take time, so start practicing a month before they will go off. Early practice is crucial to help when dogs are fearful of fireworks.

We would recommend you start practicing this treatment for dogs afraid of fireworks a month before they start being shot off in your neighborhood. Make sure you dont overwhelm your dog by practicing too long or too often. A few times a day in short 1-2 minute practice sessions works best.

Remember when training a dog to stop being scared of fireworks, the quality of your practice is the most important thing. Process slowly, at your dogs pace and watch for signs of stress. If you see any, back off your practice length or frequency. It can also help to play your dog’s favorite game, activity or spend a few minutes petting / cuddling with your dog after the practice sessions.

If you have any freinds who’s dogs are also scared of fireworks, do them a favor and send them the link to this story. We want to help every dog we can get over their fear of fireworks.

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This post was written by: David Codr