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Fireworks Frightening Fido? 21 Ways to Comfort Your Dog During Fireworks


More dogs are lost on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, and with Independence Day approaching, it's important to know how to calm and comfort your dog during fireworks. Unfortunately, chances are fireworks won't be limited to the Fourth this year: Major cities, including New York City, have seen a massive spike in the use of illegal fireworks, which have been scaring the daylight out of dogs. But brace yourself: It won't be easy to help your dog during fireworks, but it will absolutely be worth it.

Dogs and Fireworks

How to Calm and Comfort Your Dog During Fireworks

1. Try to avoid them altogether.

Don't take your dog to the local fireworks show, and if fireworks are legal where you live, keep your dog inside when you know fireworks will go off.

2. Expose your dog to loud sounds ahead of time.

Jeff Franklin, owner of Cobra Canine, has worked with over 10,000 pets and families, and recommends priming your dog to be used to loud noises: "If you have not exposed your dog to fireworks, then a good way to start is by setting your pup up for success first. You can do this by having someone with some type of loud noisemakers (such as speakers, airhorns, cowbells, whistles to name a few) at a good distance away while your dog is being entertained or playing to get a feel for their initial reactions to these noises."

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3. Gauge your dog's reactions to those sounds.

If your dog freaks out at the sound of an airhorn or a cowbell, know that fireworks won't be a good setting for them. Franklin explains, "Typically, a dog that is reactive (fearful or aggressive) of fireworks is also fearful or aggressive of other noises like thunder and/or vehicles braking or backfiring, so this may give us some insight to how they will be around fireworks."

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4. Start crate training ahead of time.

Behaviorists often debate whether or not crate training is cruel. One thing is for sure: It sure is helpful during fireworks. Experts agree that keeping your dog in a "safe place," like a crate where they're confined, can save them from harm and from running away or getting hurt. That said, if you start crate training on July 3, it's not going to go over as well.

5. Crate or confine your dog until the smoke clears.

When dogs are scared, even otherwise obedient and well-behaved pooches find their fight or flight instincts kick in, and that can have dangerous and sometimes tragic consequences.

"Unfortunately, I have witnessed dogs doing everything from trying to run for their life while fireworks are going off to actually chasing them, even biting at them (causing injuries)," Franklin tells us. "Understandably, some dogs live in areas that even while being in their home it is not possible to keep the noise of fireworks away, especially on a holiday like 4th of July and proximity of the home to the event area. When this is the case (regardless if the dogs are reactive in any manner or even neutral), I recommend keeping dogs in a safe confinement (a crate or area they cannot escape, hurt themselves, destroy things, etc.) until the fireworks are over." This setting should be somewhere your dog is already accustomed to going and is comfortable.

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6. Don't comfort your dog like a child.

While humans often respond well to verbal soothing, petting your dog and telling it's fine can backfire in a big way. Franklin explains, "Often I see folks trying to comfort a dog that is either in fear or aggressive mode and for the dog this actually does not translate the way most humans believe it does. Petting and holding onto this animal saying, 'Oh it's okay, it's alright' actually translates quite the opposite information: Dogs take this as confirmation that, 'Yes, I am glad you agree these loud noises are awful.'"

7. Act enthusiastic.

If you act happy, calm and positive during fireworks instead of trying to actively calm your dog, it may help your dog follow your lead.

8. Introduce them to fireworks early.

Play audio and videos of fireworks loudly leading up to real-life fireworks to try to prime your dog to be calm.

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9. Tire your dog out before fireworks start.

Cesar Milanrecommends exercising your pup before fireworks begin, as a tired pooch is less likely to engage in the three instinctive behaviors: Fight, flight or avoidance. Milan recommends walking your dog for at least an hour, possibly up to three, to tucker them out. It's great if you can start this at least a few days in advance.

10. Keep your dog hungry.

A hungry dog is more likely to respond to behavior corrections, Milan notes, so don't feed your pet before the fireworks begin. Instead, once the fireworks start, "Wave a piece of liver, something really freaky, primal [in front of their nose]." Use the high-value treat to redirect your dog's attention with their nose.

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11. Challenge your dog leading up to the Fourth of July.

Introduce your dog to new things, like swimming, to challenge its mind and tire it mentally, which can, in turn, help your dog feel drowsy during fireworks and be less likely to freak out.

12. Try a Thundershirt.

A Thundershirt feels like a hug for your dog and helps slow some dogs' breathing and soothe their anxiety to help them sleep. It's helpful to tire your dog before introducing the Thundershirt, Milan notes, because your dog will be less likely to try fighting you while you put it on.

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13. Make a DIY wrap.

If you don't have a Thundershirt, fear not: Ace bandages and/or T-shirts can work in a pinch. See these tutorials for help:

14. Take your dog on a walk somewhere new.

Exploring a new place with your dog, Milan says, can make your dog both happy and tired by the time you get home, ideally two hours later.

15. Pet your dog the right way.

Veterinarian Judy Morgan told the American Kennel Club (AKC) that petting your dog can calm them during fireworks, but do it strategically. "Petting them can be comforting—long, slow, firm strokes along the length of their body are typically very soothing," she said.

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16. Use white noise.

Play music or put a TV on to drown out the fireworks for your dog. Some great relaxation options for dogs can be found here—these will probably relax you, too!

17. Make sure your dog is kept indoors and that your yard is secure.

Franklin insists that you keep your dog inside, but in case your dog gets out, make sure that your yard is fenced and doesn't have any weak spots, like holes or areas they can dig and slide under or between to get out.

18. If you're hosting, give your dog their own room for the night.

"Create a quiet space for only your pup to have access to during fireworks," Franklin advises. "What this means is give your dog a room in your home which they can have to themselves: No guests or children in and out, no doors opening and closing—just a calm atmosphere for your dog to have peace."

19. Give your dog special toys during fireworks.

Shiny new toys, or improved old favorites, are great fireworks distractions for dogs, Franklin says. He recommends Kong toys (which you can fill with peanut butter and freeze for a great treat), Starmark toys, and deer antlers.

20. Talk to your vet about anxiety medications and treatments.

Each dog's needs are different. Talk to your veterinarian to see if they recommend calming treats or CBD oil (both of which you can buy over the counter) or prescription medications or sedatives to calm your dog during fireworks. It's important to check with your vet first to ensure the treats or treatments won't have negative interactions to any medications your dog may already be taking or side effects for your dog's specific breed.

21. Make sure your dog has proper ID and tags.

Sometimes no matter how much you prepare, your dog will still get so terrified that it finds a way out. Microchips, GPS tags and physical tags with your contact information are crucial to getting your dog home safely.

Remember, dogs are our best friends! Check out these inspirational quotes about dogs.

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