*Disclosure: I am not a veterinarian (although I am married to one!) so this advice to help a dog afraid of fireworks is just my personal opinion based on my person experience and observations.
Helpful Tips for a Dog Afraid of Fireworks
Fireworks!! So fun, exciting and actually down right frightening, depending on who you ask! If you have ever experienced it, there is nothing more heartbreaking than a dog afraid of fireworks.
Are all dogs afraid of fireworks? No, in fact, some are not phased at all. But for those that are, these loud and overwhelming sounds can trigger a pure panic that quite often turns into a flight response that leaves shelters full of dogs around the Fourth of July or even worse, a high incident of dogs getting hit by cars.
My hubby, a veterinarian, gets asked about how to handle dogs afraid of fireworks all the time. If you have time to plan, we’ve found that these Thunder Jackets for dogs work great. Something about the comfort of being wrapped tight in these vests puts some dogs at ease. Not all dogs respond to them, but we have seen quite a few positive cases and you can read the reviews on the Thunder Jackets for dogs, to see if that’s an option for you. One thing that I do like about these is that the price is quite reasonable and you can return them if you find that they don’t work.
However, if those don’t work, you might have to accept the fact that your Fido just won’t be enjoying these holidays by your side. And that’s ok.
My best advice for calming dogs afraid of fireworks
Probably my (our) best advice once you discover that your pet has a fear or anxiety brought on by fireworks is to completely remove them from the possibility of hearing or seeing them. Our wonderful “mutt” Dallas had a true fear of both thunder and lightning to the point where she would bolt the instant it began.
We tried everything, until one day I realized that by completely protecting her from hearing it at all, I minimized the stress for all of us. How did I do this? I used a room in our home with no windows. For us, it was a small guest bathroom. I put her bed in this bathroom, along with a few of her toys. Along with making the room comfy, I turned on a small radio to a station that we often play in the house and car. I turned it up loud enough to drown out any outside noises. I made sure she had water and food, and felt comfortable and loved. Once closed inside that bathroom with the radio on, it was impossible to hear anything in the outside world. Since there were no windows, this room was completely dark once we shut the door, but leaving the light on worked just as well. *and the response to this might vary by animal and some might need to be crated in order to relax, but you can test that out based on your animal. You might even want to practice this drill before the fireworks to get your animal used to being shut up like this.
If you use the quiet room tactic, I do feel it’s best to do this before the dog is ever aware of any fireworks. That way they go into the quiet room calm and comfortable and don’t feel like they are being put there as a punishment.
My sweet Dally dog lived to be 14 years old and thankfully, I discovered this trick when she was only a few years old so this became kind of a ritual for us on both the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. It even worked wonderfully for thunder and lightning storms.
The alternative was a nightmare, and if you have a dog who suffers from this type of anxiety, you know the panic it causes. It’s a true fear probably related to both sound and sensory issues that dogs are sensitive to, along with other things that we as humans can’t understand.
With the Fourth of July upon us, my hubby is already receiving many phone calls about panicked dogs, injured dogs and dogs that have run away due to the festivities. On top of making sure that your dog is protected and safe, you can also make sure that your dog has a collar with tags and/or is microchipped. While I think microchipping is great (and necessary!) it’s also a great idea to have a very clear identification tag on your dog as that is what most people will look for first and most people don’t have the ability to read a microchip without taking an animal to a veterinarian or shelter.
Overall, just remember that while you might love the chaos, noise and excitement of these festive holidays, some animals don’t. If you have an adopted or rescued animal, watch them closely when they are first exposed to fireworks (or thunder) to see their response. Due to the flight instinct that loud noises can create, this is how many animals end up in shelters in the first place.
Do you have any other tips or tricks for helping animals get through the holidays? If so, we would love to hear them in the comments below. If you try this out, let me know what you think!