Fireworks are a fun staple of summer festivities, but animals don’t always share our enthusiasm for celebratory booms. A dog's ears pick up twice the noise as human ears, so it’s no wonder a series of unpredictable explosions can be terrifying for Fido.
The snap, crackle, and pops can cause fearful pets to run away in desperate search of a safe haven. That’s why July 5 is historically the busiest day of the year for animal shelters— intake numbers skyrocket following Fourth of July firework shows.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent a firework freakout. First thing’s first: If Fido is afraid of fireworks or loud noises, don’t leave him unsupervised outdoors, even in fenced yards. Dogs are more likely to attempt an escape when startled by noisy bangs and pops.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, a number of experts point to reputable stress-management methods to keep dogs safe and calm during firework season. Form a plan to stay indoors with your pup and use this guide to make the not-so-silent nights a bit easier.
PLAY MUSIC OR WHITE NOISE
Leaving the TV on or playing white noise can help to drown out some of the loud bangs. Try turning on a loud fan and downloading a White Noise App for the ultimate commotion curtailment.
Many pet owners sing the praises of dog-friendly music, like this YouTube channel called Relax My Dog. With hours of music, the videos can help to relax and distract your pup, according to enthusiastic listeners.
CREATE A SAFE SPACE
Also known as a Fear Free Fortress, this is a space where your dog can enjoy quiet retreat and creature comforts. A safe space can be a dog-friendly room, playpen, or crate. The key is decking out the space with things they love— their favorite bed, food puzzles, toys, or treats. These positive associations can help your pup feel more comfortable amid anxiety-inducing situations.
Trainer Mikkel Becker suggests setting up the fortress well before fireworks season. This allows plenty of time for a dog to acclimate and bond with the new environment. Keeping the door open gives your pet freedom to roam in and out as they grow more comfortable spending time in their safe space.
COOK UP DISTRACTIONS
Fixing up your dog’s favorite foods can give your pup something to feel good about. Veterinary behaviorist Ilana Reisner has this helpful suggestion:
“Before the fireworks start, cook up an irresistible food such as chicken breast, special meat or salmon cookies, microwave tiny bits of nitrate-free hot dogs, popcorn. Stock a treat bag. Feed one piece at a time to your dog throughout the fireworks to countercondition and distract. If your dog is willing, make a game of it and ask her sit, down, 'find it', shake hands and other distracting cues. Freeze a Kong with kibble mixed with baby food. Feed dinner through the toy.”
ID YOUR PET
Make sure your pet is wearing identification that contains up-to-date information. Identification tags should include your pup's name and at least one phone number. Make sure to choose the phone number for the family member who’s most likely to answer or regularly check voicemail.
If your dog escapes or goes missing, an ID tag and microchip will be crucial to safely reuniting dogs with their families.
Read More: What To Put on Your Pet ID Tag
Also be sure keep a photo of your dog on-hand to show to neighbors or post on social media in the event they go missing.
SHOW SOME LOVE
When your dog is anxious, a little love and attention could go a long way. If possible, stay home with pets during fireworks and be prepared to help soothe your furry friend.
“It’s important to remain calm and use a soothing, even tone. Petting them can be comforting — long, slow, firm strokes along the length of their body are typically very soothing,” Jenn Stanley, certified behavior consultant and professional dog trainer, tells the American Kennel Club.
Avoid frantic and rapid tones of voice, Stanley advises. Higher pitched tones may signal to your dog to think that there is, in fact, something to fear. The important thing is to approach and talk to your animal in a serene and reassuring manner. After all, nothing tops the power of love.
CONSIDER ANXIETY APPAREL
Certain vests and shirts could help dogs to feel more secure and at-ease.
Thundershirts, a popular choice in anti-anxiety apparel, are designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, according to their website.
If you’re in a pinch, try outfitting your pup in a snug-fitting t-shirt for a similar effect.
This hoodie is not only adorable, but can also help muddle noises that might frighten your pet, the manufacturer says.
TALK TO YOUR VET
If your dog’s anxiety is severe, consider booking an appointment with a veterinarian to discuss medications or supplements to help ease firework fear.