Fourth of July is coming up, and we all know what that means. Picnics, barbecues, friends, a long weekend, and… FIREWORKS. While most of us love fireworks, some dogs find them terrifying. Is your dog afraid of fireworks? Find out some reasons why and what you can do to help them get through the holiday weekend without a meltdown. (Plus, a lot of this advice also applies to thunderstorms, emergency sirens, and other loud noises.)
Fourth of July can be an extremely scary and stressful time for your pet. They don’t understand what is happening and it can actually be traumatizing for your dog. Imagine having a jump scare like in a movie, but over and over and over. All of this noise and unpredictability can be perceived as a threat, which can trigger your pet’s flight or fight response. Your pet’s heart rate can increase and it can feel similar to a panic attack. They might even hurt themselves trying to escape. Plus, anxiety from situations like Fourth of July fireworks can worsen your pet’s overall anxiety.
Why is your dog afraid of fireworks?
Most dogs prefer structure and predictability. They like to know where their next meal is coming from and who is there to protect them and walk them. Dogs don’t understand holidays and they definitely don’t understand fireworks! To them, fireworks are completely random and inexplicable, and therefore terrifying!
Dogs can actually hear twice as many frequencies as humans. They can also hear sounds up to four times farther away than we can. If your pup is acting anxious, pacing a lot, whining, panting, shaking, or being excessively clingy, they may be hearing noises that we cannot hear. Storms can cause dramatic changes in the barometric pressure in the atmosphere, as well. Your pet might perceive this pressure even when you don’t, and that can cause anxious behaviors as well. About one third of dogs suffer anxiety during storms and unpredictable changes in the weather or loud noises, so there’s a good chance it could be affecting your dog as well.
How do you know if your dog is afraid of fireworks?
If your dog is afraid of fireworks, they might bark a lot to warn you of the danger. Or, your pup might cower with their tail between their legs and their ears back. They might even go missing either because they are hiding or because they’ve run away in an attempt to escape the danger. In fact, the Fourth of July is the day of the year when most dogs go missing. Therefore, it’s super important to make sure your dog feels safe and calm and doesn’t panic when they hear fireworks.
What should you do if your dog is afraid?
If you know ahead of time that there will be fireworks (or a thunderstorm), make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise during the day. This will help them relieve some of that anxious energy and be in a better place to stay calm. Then, create a safe space for your pet. You can find an interior room or closet where the noise is muffled and close the curtains to hide the flashes of light. You can turn on the tv or radio or other white noise to help limit the effect of the loud noises, as well.
Make sure to stay calm yourself. Show your pet that there’s no reason to panic and everything is perfectly fine. Definitely don’t punish them for their behavior. They are reacting out of fear and anxiety, not out of malice. (For more on this, check out our article on helping your anxious pet.) Have your pet’s bed and favorite toys there to comfort them. Make sure to have your pet’s favorite treats on hand to keep them happy, as well. This is definitely the time to distract and spoil your pup!