Big Bang: How to Help Your Dog Navigate Fireworks Season

Ah, fireworks! The bright lights, the booming sounds, the… sheer terror in your dog’s eyes? If your pooch is anything like mine, Finlay, fireworks season is less of a celebration and more of a war zone. I’ve worked hard on Finlay’s fear of fireworks and he is so much better than he was. He still reacts like a lunatic at first, however, I can get him to calm down and actually watch them (from afar of course!) 

Let's dive into why our furry friends are so spooked by fireworks, the dangers they face, and, most importantly, how we can help them cope.

Let's dive into why our furry friends are so spooked by fireworks, the dangers they face, and, most importantly, how we can help them cope.

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?

Imagine you’re chilling at home, and suddenly, without warning, your living room turns into a scene from a Michael Bay movie. That’s pretty much how dogs experience fireworks. Here are a few reasons why fireworks freak out your pooch:

  1. Loud Noises: Dogs have super sensitive hearing. What’s a loud bang to us is an earth-shattering explosion to them.
  2. Unpredictability: Fireworks are random. There’s no rhythm or pattern, just unexpected bangs and flashes.
  3. Fight or Flight Response: Dogs are hardwired to react to danger. Loud, sudden noises trigger their instinct to run and hide.

Dangers of Fireworks for Dogs

Fireworks aren't just scary; they can be downright dangerous. Here’s what to watch out for:

  1. Stress and Anxiety: Prolonged exposure to the noise can lead to severe stress, anxiety, and even panic attacks in dogs.
  2. Escape Attempts: A frightened dog might bolt, potentially getting lost or injured.
  3. Injuries: Dogs can hurt themselves trying to escape or chew through barriers to find a safe space.

Prevention: Preparing for the Fireworks

Preparation is key to making fireworks season less traumatic for your pup. Here’s how to get ahead of the game:

  1. Desensitization: Gradually get your dog used to the sound of fireworks by playing recordings at a low volume, slowly increasing the sound over time. 
  2. Safe Space: Create a cozy, quiet area in your home where your dog can retreat BEFORE the fireworks start. 
  3. Exercise: Tire your dog out with a long walk or intense play session earlier in the day. A tired dog is a calm dog.

Tips to Help Nervous Dogs During Fireworks

When the sky lights up and the bangs begin, these tips will help keep your dog calm:

  1. Stay Calm: Your dog takes cues from you. If you’re calm and collected, they’re more likely to feel safe.
  2. White Noise: Turn on the TV, play some calming music, or use a white noise machine to help drown out the sound of fireworks.
  3. Distraction: Engage your dog with their favourite toys or treats. A puzzle toy stuffed with goodies can keep them occupied and distracted from the noise. Licking also releases dopamine which will help calm your pooch down 
  4. Comforting Touch: Some dogs find comfort in being close to their humans. If your dog is one of them, cuddle up and provide some gentle petting.
  5. Thundershirt: These snug-fitting shirts can help some dogs feel more secure, like a gentle hug.
  6. Consult Your Vet: In extreme cases, your vet might recommend anti-anxiety medications or supplements.
  7. CBD Oil: Some dog owners find that CBD oil helps to calm their pets. Always consult your vet before trying new supplements.

More Effective Tricks to Keep Fido Calm

For those of us who want to leave no stone unturned, here are some extra tricks to keep your dog zen during fireworks:

  1. Turn On the Oven Fan: The consistent hum of an oven fan can help mask the sound of fireworks.
  2. Basement Sanctuary: If you have a basement, set up a safe space there. Basements can be quieter due to their underground nature.
  3. Early Potty Breaks: Take your dog out to pee early in the evening, before the fireworks start, to avoid any mid-bang bathroom runs.
  4. Double Leash: When taking your dog outside, use two leashes – one on their collar and one on their harness. This provides extra security in case they try to bolt.
  5. White Noise Overload: Use multiple sources of white noise. Oven fans, TV, music, and white noise machines can all help drown out the fireworks.
  6. Calming Pheromones: Products like Adaptil release dog-appealing pheromones that can help calm your dog. Available in diffusers, sprays, and collars.
  7. Create a Snug Hideaway: Some dogs feel safer in a small, enclosed space. Consider setting up a crate with blankets or a closet space with their bed and toys.

Wrapping It Up

When I adopted Finlay at 2yrs old, he was very dramatic when he heard fireworks. I used a firm voice telling him enough and it’s ok. I put a leash on him to control him and prevent him from running around and pacing. I firmly asked him to lie down and once he did I praised him for being quiet and calm. Using YouTube to help desensitize him to fireworks sounds was also helpful. 

In this video, on July 1st we were visiting my parents and the fireworks just started. We had a perfect view from the living room. Finlay freaked out and ran to the window and started barking like a madman. I firmly said, “Ok Finlay enough!, You’re fine, you’re ok”. I sat down at the window and told him we were going to watch it and as you can see, Finlay sat and watched the beautiful fireworks show that my small town of Iroquois Falls put on! Such a proud #dogmom moment! 🥰🐾

Fireworks don’t have to spell disaster for you. With a bit of preparation and a lot of love, we can help our furry friends get through the noise and lights with minimal stress. 

Stay safe, and may your dog’s tail wag right through the bangs and booms!

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