Why are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
Fireworks may be exciting and mesmerizing for those of us of the two-legged variety, but for our four-legged furry friends, they can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. The good news is, if your dog suffers from firework anxiety, he isn't alone. In fact, a fear of fireworks is a normal canine reaction. Dogs have an acute sense of hearing that make fireworks a much more intense experience. They are also much more sensitive to smell, which means even the unique odor of fireworks can be unusual and frightening.
Think about how you feel when you are startled by a loud, unexpected noise. Your heart might begin racing, your adrenaline gets flowing, you might even let out a little scream. Well, your dog might feel just like that when spooked by one loud, unexpected firework explosion after another.
Still, people wonder why some dogs, who are not sensitive to thunderstorms, get anxious and frightened at the sound of fireworks. There is an explanation for that too. Thunderstorms usually arrive gradually and are announced to our canine friends by changes in wind and barometric pressure, which means dogs can anticipate them. Fireworks on the other hand, only happen a few times of year and begin with no warning, making them much more scary than thunderstorms for most pups.
Desensitizing Puppies to Fireworks
Fortunately, if you train your pup from an early age, you can usually desensitize them to the lights and ruckus that accompany our pyrotechnic shows. How? Expose your puppy to noises such as thunder, car horns, train whistles and fireworks from 3 weeks of age to 3 months of age. Gradually increase the volume level the older they get. Usually, this kind of early exposure will help a dog to consider the sound of fireworks as something "normal" and keep him from feeling fear and anxiety when the New Year or 4th of July rolls around.
You can also try offering your puppy a special treat or his favorite toy during firework shows. Your pet will feel happy and he may come to associate fireworks with treats and playtime. But what can you do if you already own an adult dog with a firework phobia, one that no treat can cure?
Keeping Dogs Calm during Fireworks
Fortunately, there are several things you can try to reduce your dog's firework anxiety. Here are three tips that are very effective:
Create a safe space. If your dog is crate trained, he may feel more secure inside his crate. If not, put your dog's bed in a quiet room - perhaps you can shut the windows and play some soothing music - and offer him a nice chew toy to keep him occupied.
Try a wrap. Thundershirts and calming wraps are becoming more and more popular these days, mostly because they really work. Think of it like swaddling a baby. Why not try wrapping up your pup in one of these doggie garments and see if they don't feel a little more secure?
Stay calm. This is probably the most important thing you can do to help your pet. If you get anxious because your pet is anxious, they will sense it and it can start a vicious cycle. Instead, keep your cool and your pet will sense that there is nothing to worry about.
Dogs scared of fireworks can get pretty stressed out, but equipped with a knowledge of why this happens and how you can help, you can help your dog make it through the festivities with as little anxiety as possible.