While it may be a magical season for us humans, learning how to calm your dog during fireworks can help soothe their frazzled nerves during a time of the year that is anything but magical for them.
Fireworks might light up the sky with a spectacular display of color but for our little furry friends, the sounds that accompany those bright lights can be truly terrifying. If you’ve been wondering why that is, a dog’s ears hold the answer.
Dogs hear nearly twice as many frequencies as humans do and can hear sounds four times further away, so if the fireworks sound loud to you, imagine how they sound to your little canine companion.
Alongside the Fourth of July, November and December are peak months for firework displays, with Guy Fawkes being celebrated in the UK and Thanksgiving taking place in the US. Plus, there’s Christmas and New Year, which are always a great excuse to fill the sky with color.
But the good news is, you and your family and friends can enjoy all the joys of these spectacular light shows while ensuring your canine stays stress-free in the process. Below you’ll find our top tips on how to calm your dog during fireworks, with a ton of great ideas that will have them sailing through the holiday season with ease.
1. Tire them out beforehand
As you’ve probably already noticed, a well-exercised dog is a sleepy dog, so taking your hound out for a good walk or run in the late afternoon gives them the best chance of pushing up zzz’s later and missing all the fireworks action.
We recommend you keep your dog on a lead for this walk, just in case any early displays are scheduled, and if your pup is particularly prone to freaking out and you want some extra control, be sure to check out our guide to the best dog harnesses which can help keep your canine companion secure.
2. Make sure they’re well-fed
Alongside exercise, feeding your dog a meal that’s rich in complex carbohydrates a few hours before they’re due to go to sleep can also help put their body in a more relaxed and restful state and aid sleep.
When selecting dog food, look for dishes that use nourishing carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and oats, or why not treat them to one of our favorite healthy homemade dog food recipes - the extra love is sure to win you some brownie points!
3. Keep your dog indoors
We’re pretty sure you won’t be wanting to let your dog out during the fireworks, but it’s worth stressing how important it is that your furry friend is kept indoors and not let out unsupervised.
Keep all the curtains and windows closed to muffle the noise and if your dog needs the toilet, take them out on a lead unless you have a very secure property that they can’t escape from.
4. Create a safe space
If you already have one of the best dog beds, make it extra cozy and comfortable for your furkid by popping in a snuggly blanket and a few toys to keep them company. It’s also worth putting their bed in a quiet spot, such as a basement or large closet as dogs are den animals who like to hide away in cave-like spaces when they’re feeling anxious.
5. Play soothing sounds
Over the past two decades, several studies have looked at the effect of sound and music on a dog’s brain. Perhaps the most notable of these is a 2012 study that looked at the effect of relaxing music on dogs living in stressful environments.
The research team evaluated the behavior of 117 shelter dogs who were exposed to a mix of classical and heavy metal music and found that classical music had a significant calming effect.
You can try putting some classical music on in the background on the nights when fireworks are going off and having the TV on a low volume can also work. Playing white noise, such as nature sounds, has also been proven to be beneficial.
6. Allow them access to all their usual areas around the house
If you’re in the middle of crate training your dog or they usually sleep in a crate at night, taking a break on nights when you know fireworks will be going off can be a good idea.
While consistency is important, feeling cooped up and unable to move about can be scary for your dog when things are going on outside, so allowing them to roam about all the usual areas they have access to can be helpful.
Once it’s time for them to go to sleep, consider moving their bed into your room so that they have the comfort of your presence. This will likely make a big difference in how easily they settle down for the night.
7. Reassure your furry friend that there’s nothing to worry about
A chilled-out human can go a long way in creating a chilled-out dog, so use your behavior to reassure your pup that the fireworks are no big deal. Your dog will look to you to see how you’re responding to all the noise, so keep your tone of voice soothing and they’ll immediately feel more relaxed.
8. Give them a chew
Distracting your dog when they’re feeling stressed or anxious can be a great tactic and the goal is to keep them occupied for as long as possible so their attention is on something other than the noise going on outside.
The best longest lasting dog chews are ideal for giving your pup something to focus on and many of them are designed to last for several hours, which means your canine companion will be too busy gnawing away on their treat to pay too much attention to the fireworks.
9. Invest in a pheromone diffuser
If you have a dog who is particularly prone to getting stressed by loud noises, we recommend having a chat with your vet about pheromone diffusers and whether investing in one may be helpful in soothing your dog’s anxiety.
Devices like the RelaxoPet Pro, which release calming chemicals into the room that only your furkid can detect, have been shown to be effective at reducing the stress response in some dogs, so they’re well worth trying.
10. Make sure your dog has ID
Hopefully your dog will stay put indoors while the fireworks are going off, but if they happen to make a break for it, it’s really important that they’re microchipped and wearing an ID tag as this will make it easy for them to be returned to you quickly in the event of a house break!
Another option you might want to consider is investing in a quality pet tracker. These are lightweight, can be easily worn around the neck, and give you an accurate and up-to-the-minute location of where your canine is at so you can find them immediately.
11. Desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks
One of the best ways to help your furry friend stay calm during firework season is to spend some time desensitizing them to the sound. Here’s how to do it:
- Get your dog settled and comfortable and find a video on YouTube that contains firework noises. Begin by playing it at the lowest possible volume, so that it’s barely audible.
- Start to increase the volume until it just reaches a level that’s audible to your dog. You may notice that their ears start to twitch, which is a good sign they can hear the sound. Leave the volume at that level for several minutes.
- Move the volume up a notch until it’s a little more audible but still not loud. Leave it at this setting for 5-10 minutes and repeat at this volume 3-4 times a day.
If at any time your dog shows signs of stress, turn the sounds off and begin the process again, starting at the lowest possible volume and slowly working your way up.
You can also use dog treats to reward your pup throughout the process as this will help them to associate the sound of fireworks with something positive happening.
Kathryn is a freelance writer with a passion for creating health and wellness, travel and wildlife content. Originally from New Zealand, her nomadic lifestyle has her currently fur baby-less. She scratches her pet parent itch by stealing frequent cuddles with any neighbourhood cat kind enough to indulge her.
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