The Fourth of July is a stressful time for a lot of dogs, and their owners. While there is no quick fix for helping a dog overcome his fear of fireworks, these tips are designed as starting blocks for helping a dog deal with fireworks and other stressful noises. Please share any additional tips in the comments section for how to help a dog that is afraid of fireworks.
1. Give your dog plenty of exercise.
If you are anticipating fireworks and you know your dog is fearful, it will only help your dog if you provide her with additional exercise the week leading up to the fireworks. The less energy she has, the easier it will be for her to calm down and remain calm. Exercise alone won’t solve the problem, but it can certainly help. Take your dog for a longer walk than usual every day, work on obedience training and play tug of war games.
2. Never bring your dog along to watch fireworks.
Even if you know your dog does OK with loud noises, it’s still a bad idea to bring him along to watch a fireworks display. When you’re close to loud noises such as fireworks, you just never know when your dog could panic, slip through his collar and bolt. It’s better to leave him home where he will be cool and safe, and make sure his pet ID tags are up to date just in case.
3. Desensitize your dog to loud noises throughout the year.
If you know fireworks are a problem for your dog, you can desensitize him to the noise throughout the year by playing fireworks videos on your computer or TV for short periods every couple of days. Start out by playing the videos softly in the background so there’s no reaction from your dog. Each session, you would slowly increase the volume, always making sure that there is no reaction from your dog.
4. Provide your dog with a kennel or other cozy spot.
Your dog might feel better if she has a place to hide during fireworks, like in her kennel with a dog bed. This is especially important if your dog tends to pace, whine or bark during fireworks. Other dogs will “dig” or claw at doors when they’re scared. Or they might start chewing things they normally wouldn’t. The kennel will help your dog relax while decreasing the opportunities for her to hurt herself or damage property. If your dog doesn’t like being kenneled, try leaving her in a bedroom or bathroom in a central part of the house.
While your dog is in her “den,” provide her with some tempting chew toys to help distract her from the fireworks. It also helps to turn on some music or a TV as well as a fan or air conditioner for white noise.
5. Give your dog treats every time fireworks go off.
What is your dog’s favorite food item? Jerky treats? Bacon? Figure out what that is, and then drop a piece for your dog every time fireworks go off. It may help to have her nearby you on a dog leash. Some people may worry the treats will “reward” the dog’s fear, but the goal is to change the dog’s response to fireworks. Instead of running away in fear, the dog will begin to associate the sound of fireworks with his favorite food. Depending on your dog’s level of fear, it won’t happen overnight but with time and patience this can really make a difference.