My dog is scared of fireworks, what to do?
Lots of dogs are scared of fireworks, and their owners don’t know what to do. Let’s help them out. I’ll offer my suggestions, but please share your ideas. What works for one dog will not necessarily work for every dog, so a variety of options is a good thing.
How to help if a dog is scared of fireworks
These tips are for when your dog is in the house with you and fireworks are heard nearby.
Provide your dog with a quiet, secure place.
Some dogs will want to pace or scratch at the door or “dig” if they are afraid of fireworks. Others will bark, and some will want to hunker down and get somewhere “safe.” I recommend encouraging the dog to lie down.
A kennel (crate) is a good option to help your dog feel safe, especially if it is in a central part of the house. Some dogs will naturally retreat to their kennels or dog beds. Others will hide under a bed or a desk, and that’s OK too. As long as the dog is not hurting herself or chewing anything, consider putting a blanket or dog bed in one of these spots to encourage her to snuggle up and hide. You could also try a Thundershirt for dogs to help her feel more secure. You can read my dog Thundershirt review here.
Give her a very tempting toy or bone like a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter, hot dogs or hamburger. Don’t worry that you are “rewarding” the dog for her behavior. Instead, you are encouraging her to relax and focus on something else – chewing on the treat. Some dogs might not show interest in food if they are feeling anxious, so use the most tempting food possible.
If your dog is scared of fireworks, stay calm so she can stay calm.
Humans are very good at overreacting, especially when we are predicting something. If you know your dog is scared of fireworks, don’t add to her anxiety by saying things like, “Oh no, Ginger! What’s that? Are the fireworks starting?” It’s best not to react at all. Act normal, like you don’t hear anything. Try ignoring your dog completely. Don’t even look at her. I know my own dog looks to me for my reaction sometimes, and that’s how he decides how to react. In these cases, I ignore him, and he just sits there.
For some dogs, it may help to talk to them in a low, soft, soothing voice. Coax your dog to lie at your feet or in her kennel. If you want to hold your dog, that would be fine. Don’t worry about “rewarding” the dog’s fear. If you say anything at all, use a slow, calm voice. “Theeeeere. Staaaaay. Goooood. Shhhhhh” would be better than “Here! Here! Here! Down, girl! It’s OK! It’s OK! Sh. Sh. Sh.” See the difference? Your dog will have an easier time relaxing if you are relaxed.
Use soothing music and other background noises to drown out the fireworks.
Obviously our dogs have highly sensitive ears so a TV is not going to fool them, but it can help. Shutting the windows and turning on loud fans or air conditioners can also help if a dog is afraid of fireworks.
Drop hot dogs on the ground every time fireworks go off.
I know this sounds a little crazy. But seriously, if your dog loves hot dogs (or meatballs or cheese), try dropping some every single time a firework goes off. That means you will arm yourself with enough hot dogs to last a half-hour and keep dropping them every time you hear a firework. Break the hot dogs in little pieces and keep on dropping them. Help your dog associate something positive with the noise. Do this every time, and you may be able to condition your dog’s internal response. Instead of thinking, “Dear God, we’re all gonna die!” your dog will think “Oh boy, fireworks! That means hot dogs!” This takes time, of course.
Get your dog to focus on something else
If your dog loves to work on obedience training for food, you might be able to distract her from the fireworks – especially if your treats are real ham or meatballs. Go over the easy, fun stuff like sit, down, stay, come, shake. Keep it really easy and fun with lots of rewards. Go into the basement if you can, where the fireworks are less audible. Turn on the TV or some music or loud fans. If she’s one of those fetching nuts or tug-of-war nuts, play those games when the fireworks are happening.
Is your dog scared of fireworks? What are some additional ways you help a dog get over her fear?
These tips were meant to help if a dog is terrified of fireworks right now. Tomorrow I will share some tips for what to do to help your dog prepare for future fireworks displays. Feel free to send me your ideas! Update: You can read that post here.