Dog is scared of fireworks

My Dog Has Extreme Fear of Fireworks and Thunder

In this post, four dog owners share their tips for helping with a dog’s fear of fireworks or thunder.

What do you do if nothing seems to work?

I asked four dog owners how they manage their dogs’ fears, because sometimes you just can’t make their fears go away.

I hope this post is helpful to others who have extremely fearful dogs. Please share this post if it will help a dog you know.

*Get this post emailed to you as a pdf. Read it later. Click Here.

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How to manage your dog’s extreme fear of fireworks and thunder?

Dog's fear of fireworks

Example #1: Tonya Wilhelm and her dog’s fear of thunder

Tonya Wilhelm said her dog Theo (who passed away in 2009) was the “most extreme” case of thunder phobia she has seen.

If she happened to be home with Theo during a thunderstorm, she said his eyes would become dilated and he’d pant, pace, dig, try to knock things over and would not settle down.

“If I was gone, he ate the carpet, walls, knocked over everything in sight, urinated and defecated,” she said.

Wilhelm could not find anything to fix her dog’s behavior.

She tried working on a desensitization training program and tried giving him medications. She also moved in with her mom so Theo would be alone less often.

Theo the golden retriever dog's fear of fireworks and thunder

During thunderstorms, Wilhelm would:

  • put Theo in a tight-fitting T-shirt
  • put gun earmuffs over his ears
  • turned on the TV
  • set up a box fan
  • snuggled up right on top of him!

If Theo had to be left alone, she put him in his crate with a piece of Plexiglas attached to the inside of the crate’s door. This kept him from damaging his nails when clawing at the door.

Today, Wilhelm is a professional dog trainer with Global Dog Trainer and she has found a couple of ideas that help some of her clients’ dogs with thunderstorm phobias.

She suggests the following:

Wilhelm said it’s important to give your dog any medication or calming aids before your dog is feeling stressed. This gives the medication sufficient time to enter the dog’s body.

See our post: Medications for dogs during fireworks.

Finally, she also uses “food therapy” by starting her clients’ dogs on a “cooling diet that is high in blood tonics.” This often includes rabbit, sardines, oysters, parsley, carrots and spinach, she said.

*Get this post emailed to you as a pdf. Read it later. Click Here.

Example #2: Elaina Cowdell and her dog’s fear of fireworks

Elaina Cowdell’s dog Lilly is scared of thunder, fireworks and gunshots. Lilly will try to get away from what’s scaring her and will destroy blinds or go through screens in the process.

Lilly the dog's fear of fireworks

“I tried everything under the sun,” Cowdell said. “Thunder coats, calming sprays and collars, calming and desensitizing CDs, I bought and tried it all.”

What finally helped was to find a vet willing to work with Cowdell on finding the right medication to manage Lilly’s anxiety.

Cowdell also found a trainer who specializes in fearful dogs and uses desensitization training.

“For example, when a thunderstorm is happening, I will get high-value treats and throw them in the air and tell her to ‘find it’ every time thunder happens,” she said.

“This does two things. It helps her to start thinking that thunder means yummy treats and it’s a good thing, and it helps distract her by finding all of the treats.”

See our post: What to do if your dog is scared of thunderstorms

When Cowdell can’t be home with Lilly and there’s potential for thunderstorms or fireworks, she said she leaves her dog at a daycare. If she’s home with Lilly and it gets really bad, Cowdell will give Lilly a vet-approved extra dose of medication to help calm her while she holds her.

“We go downstairs, turn the radio or TV up loud and I do everything I can to minimize the sound and make her feel safe.”

Example #3: Sandy Cumberland and her dog Pequena’s fear of fireworks

Dog's fear of fireworks

Sandy Cumberland said her dog Pequena is a rescue dog from a village in Mexico.

“I believe that the locals may have taken pot shots at her and the other feral dogs to keep them from garbage and from the fish as the fisherman hauled their nets onto the beach,” she said.

“A single percussive sound – a car backfiring, even the sound of a stapler – will put her into a nervous state. You can imagine what fireworks do to her!”

During fireworks, Cumberland said her dog runs to the closet and buries herself as deeply as she can.

“Her whole body shakes. She pants furiously, with the whites of her eyes showing all around.”

In attempts to help Pequena, Cumberland said she has tried various natural remedies for her dog.

“None had any impact at all.”

Her vet suggested a prescription tranquilizer but because Pequena is sensitive to medications Cumberland didn’t want to go that route.

So, if she knows there will be fireworks, Cumberland stays home with Pequena or arranges for someone to be there.

“I sit near the closet and talk to her in a soothing voice. If I can reach her, I will keep my hand on her, stroking her as I speak,” she said. “I don’t attempt to hold her, even though as a human our temptation is to cuddle someone who is afraid, as being confined will just increase the anxiety.”

When the noise is over, she makes sure to give her dog water and then Pequena sleeps for a long time but never has any long-term effects.

“Like humans who suffer from anxiety, between episodes her life is very normal.”

For a more detailed guide on general dog anxiety, see my post: How to help my anxious dog

Example #4: Kirsten Stuart and her dog Abbie

Dog's fear of fireworks

Kirsten Stuart has an 8-year-old boxer/pitbull mix named Abbie who has always had a fear of thunder and fireworks.

“She seems to hear the most distant sound of thunder even before I do,” Stuart said. “She gets this look of sheer terror on her face and crawls on my lap.”

She said Abbie shakes and pants, and fireworks are even scarier for her.

“With the sound of each firework, she flinches and the fear in her eyes is just sad, all you see is sheer terror.”

Stuart said she has tried everything from oils and natural herbs to a Thundershirt to taking Abbie to the basement to play.

Dog Thundershirt

“I have resigned to the fact that she is and will be deathly afraid of fireworks, and as her dog mom I need to find the best and safest solution to try to calm her.”

In this case, Stuart has found that medication is the only solution to keep Abbie calm.

“The dosage has been carefully decided upon by our vet and she gets just enough to calm her through fireworks displays,” Stuart said.

“Now that I have found a solution for both thunderstorms and fireworks, it is much calmer at the house during these events.”

Her advice to other dog owners it to remember every dog is different.

“Find what works for them and is comfortable for the both of you.”

*Get this post emailed to you as a pdf. Read it later. Click Here.

What ideas to the rest of you have?

Let me know in the comments!

Our Favorite Products to Help a Dog’s Fear of Fireworks:

  1. Thundershirt:
    The Thundershirt is worth a try in addition to other training methods and potentially anti-anxiety medication. You can get it for 30% off on when you sign up for your first autoship program.
  2. Dog Appeasing Pheromones:
    Adaptil releases specific pheromones that naturally appease and calm dogs. Available as a diffuser you plug in to the wall, a collar or a spray.
  3. A white noise machine:
    An actual white noise machine works so well to block out the noise. You could also try a loud fan and keep music or the TV playing.

See our related posts to help a dog’s fear of fireworks:

Dog's fear of fireworks and thunder

36 thoughts on “My Dog Has Extreme Fear of Fireworks and Thunder”

  1. Katie developed her fear around 9 yrs old, so we let her hide in the bathroom where she felt safe, now she is losing her hearing and it doesn’t phase her one bit. Bailie started acting scared this year, so Mom started treating her every time there was a bang and as of last night she didn’t seem bothered anymore. Me, I was lying out in the middle of the yard last night looking at the fireworks, not letting the loud noise bother me in the least.

  2. Hi- I have a 9 year old and a 3 year old, both mixed breeds, both female. The youngest Bailey freezes in place while her sister, Daisy paces and pants. What works for us is a calming collar, the Divinity of Dogs CD, and attempts to refocus attention on some training games. If they’ve reached threshold of course the games rarely work so I’ll just let the collar and music relax them. I’ve also massaged the dogs during fireworks and sing a low “You Are My Sunshine.”. Mind you, I can’t carry a tune but it relaxes them immensely.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for sharing those tips, Lori. I have not heard of the calming collar or the CD you mentioned.

  3. I’m always fascinated by what makes dogs tick. Norman is scared of the vacuum, the garage door, the screen door, curtains that blow in the wind, doors that swing from the wind, the car, chairs or boxes being moved towards him, but he couldn’t care less about fireworks or thunder. Go figure.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Ace is scared of smoke and car exhaust for some reason. Not bad things to be scared of, I guess!

  4. As you know, I’ve had many dogs over the years. But I have never had a dog as terrified of thunder or fireworks as these dogs. I think Sephi was probably the most fearful, but her reaction was to go into the bathroom and lay there quietly. I would turn on the bathroom fan in order to mask the noise and it seemed to help sooth her. Sometimes I would call her out and use the technique Elaina used, which is distracting Sephi with playtime and/or treats. Later, I acquired the music Through a Dog’s Ear and it seemed to help a little.
    Currently, Maya and Pierson have absolutely no fear of fireworks or thunder as long as they are indoors. Pierson might bark at firework noises, but generally he calms down when he notices that Maya is not reacting to them.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Had to smile when you said Pierson calms down when he notices Maya is not reacting. Good girl, Maya! 🙂

  5. I feel so bad for dogs that have severe anxiety like that, whatever the cause. We conditioned Haley to play during thunderstorms when she was little and loud noises have never bothered her. I have noticed though that as she gets older, she’s more aware of thunder and sometimes she’ll look at me with a tiny bit of apprehension. I wonder if it has something to do with getting older or maybe there was a bad storm once when we weren’t home.

  6. Thanks again for including Theo in your story. He was rescued at 3 months and developed overnight thunder phobia at around 1.5 years of age. It was so heartbreaking to see him so beside himself. For those of you lucky enough with a dog who isn’t worried, please prevent, and do food tosses, games etc. during storms. Get a nice buffer. xoxoxo

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for sharing your stories about Theo. I know your experience and advice will be helpful to others.

  7. my 1 year old boston barks when he hears thunder but my 9 month old dachshund doesnt react at all. he calms down after a few booms of thunder then they like to jump on the couch and look out the window and watch the lightning in the sky.

  8. Is is abnormal for dogs to not react to any of these things?
    My two border terriers don’t scare too easily and they only cower when there’s mention of a shower.

  9. Sandy Weinstein

    my middle child will go on the porch to see what is going on, then she does not like the loud sounds so she stays close to mom. they do not bother the older child anymore b/c she is deaf. the baby has really no reactions. they do not like thunder and lightning. i just let them be, comfort them, give then a long chew. i have a thunder shirt but have never used it to date. the girls are not bad, they dont get destructive or start barking, running around. we may play or they may just sit beside me in bed or near me when i am on the pc. they always like to be in the same room as mom. if they get too excited i will give them some homeopathic remedies.

  10. Having Labradors with field experience, when they hear fireworks they run into the yard and look up trying to find a falling duck! However, there is a product called Rescue Remedy that many dog people I know swear by for various cases of stress or over excitement.

  11. The only thing that works for my dog is to put him into the truck and ride around. My neighbors are so crazy all through the year that I can not leave the house after dark unless the dog is with me.

  12. Sherrie Slaboda

    When my 13 year old baby boy became uncomfortable I found Hemp Oil and it helped him a lot. When he died I rescued Kita who had a very strong fear of thunder. I decided to try the Hemp Oil and within 10-15 minutes Kita was OK. It only takes a few drops to calm her. I will be giving it to her on 4th of July.
    Although my Vet could not sell it to me she gave me the name of a company that makes it for dogs/cats.

  13. Pingback: My Dog is Afraid of Fireworks - A Dog Blog

  14. The only thing we have found to work after trying homeopathy, thundershirt, daily anti anxiety meds, xanax, prozac, OTC, music, and everything else you can come up with, is a soundbar. Invest in one today. I got one not for that purpose but we’d turn it up during fireworks and storms and my dog, who for at least 7 years has religiously scratched the walls and us and wouldn’t let us sleep at all, doesn’t even notice them. Not only the sound but the base disrupts any atmospheric storm issues too. I gave one to my ex husband and he didn’t think it would do anything – we share custody and he now swears by it also. We had tried previously everything. Run, don’t walk, to buy a soundbar for your TV today.

  15. Hi, I have a now 15 yo rescue mix who came into my life 9 yr ago. She is terrified of any loud noises-raised voices, slamming doors, you name it. In her younger years I would take for hikes to wear her out before the 4th’s fire work and need to apply a bit of lavender essential oil through her coat to help calm plus add a very mild sedative our vet gives us. She now gets a mild anxiety med vs sedative and is too arthritic for hikes but gets a couple short walks during the day. I give her the anxiety med plus lavender as early as able when tstorms are predicted. Background noise helps alot, too. As others mentioned fans, music, etc., are great.

  16. I has a shih tzu years ago that was terrified of storms. I was told to use medication , but I am against that and refused. I just would comfort him and hold him until storm passed.
    Now my newer shih tzu is bad with fireworks and storms and any noise. He comes shaking and trembling to me to hold him like a baby. I do hold him and put him under me and comfort him until he stops shaking. I wont use medications and as far as thunder shirt I am his thunder shirt and hold him tight against me.

  17. I mix Vetiver and lavander essential oil in my palms and rub it down my dog Jacoby’s side for bad storms. It helps for that but not fireworks. He’s on trazodone this year. He still may run and bark but he’s not turning on my other two dogs now which he does without the meds. One of my other dogs is still healing from the puncture wounds he put in her leg. He gets 150mg about 6:30pm along with the oils.

  18. Jazzy, my border collie was terrified of storms and fireworks. She would pace, pant, drool and try to hide under things. We even had to take her out of flyball and agility because of it.

    The only thing that worked and it was later on in life when she lost a lot of her hearing is she would go in our small laundry room and I would wash and dry everything in the house to cover the noise. It broke my heart to see her in such a panic.

  19. Properly crate train the dog so it is comfortable in a solid plastic crate, plexiglass the openings if needed to keep dog from digging at the grates. Drill holes in the plexi for ventilation. Fill the crate half full of straw, hide small high value treats in the straw for the dog to find. Play loud classical music, place crate in a dark room.

  20. Louise Jackson

    My BC Jett was terrified of thunder. I started playing with a toy when a storm
    Rolled in. So every time we had a storm he would run to the toy box and come running with
    It to Play. He associated thunder with play as a good thing
    He was 14 1/2 yrs when I lost him in April. 2018

  21. Pingback: How to Help Your Pet Survive the Fourth of July - RV Lifestyle

  22. Our 9 year old dog is terrified all of the sudden by the back up noise on vehicles and by vehicles and motorcycles racing on the freeway. She will hardly go on walks anymore. Calming chews haven’t helped enough and we hate to medicate her every day. We are at a loss as to what to do. Any suggestions?

  23. My bernsise mountain 5 years old started getting scared 2 years ago its heartbreaking i tried benydrill it made him worse he got outside tried to escape so i follow him around he puts his 165 lb body in the smallest areas i push pillows up against him with all his stuffed toys and then i lean up against him he sometimes calms down slows his panting nervous about giving him medicine so i do what i can today is july 4th 2020 little pops have been goin off all day so i know we are in for a long night radio is up doors are shut tv is on

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