Some dogs are extremely frightened by fireworks and/or loud noises and it can be very stressful for the dog as well as the owners.
Research is continuing in this field but as of now there are some solid strategies to put your pooch at ease and include everything from behaviour conditioning to medication and all might work, depending on your dog.
The reason they react.
Ears back. Body trembling. Hiding in the bathtub or crawling under the bed. The telltale signs of a scared pup are familiar to dog owners, and they’re especially common in summer, when fireworks and thunderstorms can heighten dogs’ anxiety levels. But while the sight of a sparkler sends some dogs tail-tucked and running, others remain unfazed by booms and bangs.
Dogs are known for their olfactory (smelling) prowess, but sound also dictates their experience of the world. Dogs hear more than twice as many frequencies as humans, and they can also hear sounds roughly four times further away. Reacting to every sound would demand too much energy, and so dog brains must determine which sounds are significant and which can be tuned out. This “auditory flexibility” is especially important for working dogs; for example, lives depend on the ability of military dogs and detection dogs to remain calm despite the loud sounds and explosions they may encounter.
There are possibly genetic reasons also, where dogs have evolved to run away from loud noises as a survival instinct.
The reality is, it’s probably a combination of all those factors but the result are scared family pets which is something every dog owner should be educated on and work to resolve.
Strategies to counteract it
- Give them a safe place to retreat – A room in the basement or their crate will work but they will be stressed so give them a safe place to ride it out.
- Use playtime before and during – If you can distract them enough with positive playtime, they may not be as reactive to the noise
- Enrichment items – A big lickmat or other enrichment toy to occupy their mind during the noise can help turn it into a less stressful situation.
- Medication – Talk to your vet about calming medications if their reaction is severe. Some dogs may get so frightened that they have accidents or be destructive and meds can help here. Calming treats such as CBD or other can also work well, check with your vet for advice.
- Calm music – Put on some soft music which can calm them mentally, especially if they are home along
- Positive reinforcement – Use soft voices and touches to reinforce positive emotions for them.
Don’t do these!
- Don’t bring your dog close to fireworks if they are afraid, the fear won’t be minimized through this type of exposure, only magnified.
- Don’t let them run free if they are the least bit sensitive to the noise. Keep them leashed and close and even better if they have a harness. You don’t want them to run away scared which could cause injury or worse in their state of fear.