How to Keep Dogs Calm During Fireworks

Keep dog calm from fireworks

Want to know how to help keep dogs calm during fireworks? Consider this:

Someone walks into your office and unannounced, without warning, said person presses the button on the loudest air horn ever. You are startled, upset, perhaps shaken, and the sound won’t stop. The person brings 50 of his or her closest friends to your office and each person has their own air horn. The sound of each air horn is louder than the previous one. This goes on all day when you work and you never know when the next air horn will go off. You aren’t allowed to leave because the office is locked.

In the course of the day, you should remember to eat and drink and go to the bathroom, where of course, the air horns could go off at any time. You should get all your work done, too.

Does this sound like fun?

Welcome to what Fourth of July feels like to a dog.

Here’s the most realistic list you need to keep dogs safe during firework Armageddon:

Get Outta Town

Rent a room at a hotel: Leave your home and check into a pet-welcoming hotel that is not located near any public firework displays.

dog_hotel

Go on Lockdown

Secure doors and windows if you stay home with your dog. Ask most shelter workers how much they dread July 5th. It’s not fun, folks. Dogs bolt in fear as a flight or fight response. They hear and feel the noise – like that air horn at the office – and they bolt in an attempt to get away.

Call In the Cavalry

Get a trusted pet sitter for your dog in your home if you plan to go to a public display. Do NOT leave your firework fearful dog home alone. Dogs are known to do drastic things in drastic situations: Jump through windows, desperately paw at the door, shake themselves into a seizure. I have experience with the last one, as my puppy mill rescue dog shook herself into a separation anxiety seizure. I walked in on it.

Medicate With Caution

Don’t medicate without talking to your dog’s vet: Some sedatives are dangerous, contraindicated, and must be dosed properly…even over-the-counter “natural” things can cause damage.

The Washington Post reported on a new drug to calm dogs fearful of noises. The reports states, “Approved by the FDA in November under the trade name Sileo, the drug is an oral gel containing a pinch of a chemical called dexmedetomidine. Squeeze a bit of the gel onto a dog’s gums before fireworks, and as the drug is absorbed it dulls the effects of norepinephrine.”

Talk to your vet to see if this drug would be suitable for your noise phobic dog.

Preventative medicine in dogs

My dog had firecrackers tossed AT him when he was a pup and we were taking a walk. The jerks kids took off but left my dog with emotional scars. We use Xanax to keep him calm without being sedated. My dog is a family member. I would not leave my child home alone and I don’t leave my dog home alone. We stay together as a family, he gets a very low dose of Xanax as prescribed by the vet, and life is good.

Rescue Remedy for Pets is an alcohol-free flower essence that I have tried in the past. I actually tried it on myself first. I won’t let my dog use anything that is not first clared by our veterinarian. This never seemed to make a difference for him. I know it has taken an edge off for me when I tried a few droplets in a glass of water.

Puppy hiding from fireworks

Wrap it Up (Or Not)

If you’ve never tried an anti-anxiety wrap, they must be tried and used when the dog is calm so he or she knows they are safe. If you put an anti-anxiety wrap on the dog when the boomers are at full blast, he or she will associate the wrap with the sound. Not cool.

You can read all about acclimating your dog to an anti-anxiety wrap by Googling. They never helped my dog. Use caution with them, too. These wraps are not an instant cure. An anti-anxiety wrap like Thundershirt is designed to give the dog a “hug” and calm the sympathetic nervous system.

A pressure wrap for dogs is designed to target specific pressure points in the same way a person swaddling a baby does. Dog parents use them to help calm a dog in stressful situations, Your dog needs to get used to it and they need to be used over time, not as an instant fix.

The anti-anxiety wraps never worked for our Cocker Spaniel despite repeated attempts and plenty of positive reinforcement. Some folks swear by them for their dogs. Each dog is different, and if something is safe and it helps your dog’s fears, then use it!

Please note: If you use a pressure wrap, it is important to get the right size so as not to hurt the dog.

Don Draper sunglasses
Keep your dog cool and safe from fireworks!

DON’T

I’m not a fan of blasting music or a television to drown out fireworks. If someone walked in the office with heavy metal music to drown out the air horns, now my nerves are doubly shot. Your dog is in a similar situation. Noise stimuli on overdrive is no fun, especially for his or her sensitive ears.

A Fi-Dose of Reality

Bottom Line: Treat your dog like a child who is terrified of a scary movie. You don’t expose your kid to a scary movie hoping they are desensitized to the bogeyman. You don’t let your kid watch scary movies.

Be the dog parent who embraces their dog and does their best to calm them during firework season. It’s no longer a single day in many communities. This is upsetting and frustrating, I know.

It’s 5 o’clock and the air horns are ready to leave the office. You can come out from behind your desk now

Comments

  1. Great options, and I hadn’t thought of getting out of town before but that’s a great idea if you live in an area where there’s a ton of fireworks around.

    And I’m glad you mention talking to your vet about medication. For dogs with severe anxiety it can be pretty much impossible to help distract them or keep them calm without the help of it in certain situations. Once they’re in that state of panic they are suffering, and the right medication can help tremendously.

  2. We will be giving Bentley some Relax and are trying a new device, Calmz that I received at the conference for review. Hopefully, he will have a fun time indoors with the television turned up and enjoying belly rubs.

  3. Another idea: boarding. there’s a fireworks store 300 feet from my house that sets off all kinds of stuff (almost anything is legal here). I took my dogs with me on vacation but they’ve been so traumatized that even distant fireworks disturb them. Now they go to a kennel in the country far far from fireworks.

    • For many boarding is a good option if you trust the facility and have worked with them. If someone stays with the dogs and they are prepared for what to do if the dog is nervous, then this can work. I fear things like bordatella and disease, so I don’t use this option but I know it’s a very good one for some pet parents. Thanks for sharing that!

  4. Thanks for the great points! We had a dog growing up that would get so stressed when she heard fireworks, so I understand how severe the reaction can be to the sound. Using the sound of an air horn is a good analogy. Just thinking about an air horn makes me want to cringe! Have a happy 4th of July 🙂

    • We used your towels a bunch these past three weeks as we drove cross country with our dog. Love them so much and glad the article is helpful!

  5. What a perfect analogy! I dread fireworks. My Husky hates the & hides in the closet. I have a CD I turn the volume up on, but it’s a very “Zen” called Inner Peace. My dogs love to relax & fall asleep to itit,! Great advice here, thanks!

  6. This is such a difficult time of year for those of us with dogs who are affected by the fireworks. Heartbreaking when you don’t know what to do for them. Thank you for sharing these helpful tips!

  7. Ruby is fearful of many things – mostly us leaving. She doesn’t seem bothered by fireworks, but that may be because we never leave her alone on the fourth. I imagine she might be frightened if she was home alone, but that won’t ever happen.

    Fortunately, our neighborhood is much quieter since we moved just outside the city. Our old neighborhood (in the city) was pretty much like World War Three on the fourth. There were feral cats in the neighborhood and I used to be up all night worrying about them.

  8. Very good tips! Especially for new dog owners if they’re not familiar with how their dog will react to fireworks. We’re lucky that our dog doesn’t mind them. He sleeps through anything! 🙂

  9. Thank you for all the wonderful information and advice. I’ve thankfully never had any issues with my previous dogs. Tootsie is my newest fur baby and it will be her first 4th with me. I have no idea how she is going to react. I appreciate all the information, hoping that every thing goes smoothly.

  10. Good tips! I’m glad that you suggested to medicate with caution. Meds don’t work for many dogs that are afraid of loud noises, and every dog can react to medicine differently. Definitely best to talk to your vet!

    I do know some dogs who do much better with the TV or music on. I’m working with a pug currently who is terrified of thunder and fireworks. It’s unfortunate, because we get lots of thunderstorms here in Texas. He goes into a panic, running around the house, barking. With the TV on, he is still quite worried, but overall he is noticeably calmer.

    One tip I give my clients is to plan ahead and take the dog out to potty before the fireworks start. Make sure the pup does all his business. That way, there’s no need to go outside during the noise.

  11. Love the child with a scary movie analogy. My husband and I never celebrate Canada Day for the same reason. We know Henry would be at home under the bed. Not fun for either of us. Great information.

  12. I’ve found much the same results from natural anxiety deterrents with my own dog. The Thundershirt works fairly well in calming him, but he really doesn’t enjoy wearing it. It’s a great passive way to calm him without having to resort to medications. Rugby has mild fireworks anxiety, so thankfully, the Thundershirt is enough to calm him. Some dogs I train respond well to them….others not so much.

  13. We’re trying out Xanax this year and so far it’s been going well. We haven’t had the steady stream of fireworks that is the fourth but he’s been calm with the random booms that have been going off.

  14. These are awesome tips! Simba doesn’t seem bothered by fireworks if he is in the house. Thankfully a lot doesn’t go off where we stay.

  15. Great tips. Cats don’t like the sudden and loud noises of fireworks either. I’ve given Truffle some calming treats and try to stay home with them when it’s that season. Unfortunately, it’s legal to shoot fireworks in SC in neighborhoods and we never know when it’s going to happen.

  16. Our town has a decent sized firework display about a 1/2 mile from our house a few times a year. Luckily they don’t bother our dogs, but we always keep the dogs home. The fireworks don’t bother them, but the crowds would.

    Two of my sisters have had dogs that are very sensitive to noise and fireworks are really rough for them. They have had mixed results with the items you mentioned, but their pups aren’t home alone because it wouldn’t be kind to leave them.

  17. We’re in the midst of fireworks all around our house and doing a lot of things you mentioned to help keep them calm! Hope everyone stays safe!

  18. Great post, Carol, especially the comparisons. We posted awareness also as it’s so important for us all to get the word out and offer great tips and options. Hope you all had a wonderful, safe, and non-scary Fourth!

  19. Great article! I will share what I do. I use lavender oil on my dog by massaging his ears which is close to his nose so he will smell it for hours afterwards. This oil keeps my dog calm, but I do have to be close buy when they start shooting the fireworks. Just make sure you buy the oil that is specifically made for dogs and their size since they can not take the same strength as we can.

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