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Don’t Let Fireworks Freak Out Your Furry Friend – Calming Techniques for Fireworks Night

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Imagine cuddling up with your furry friend on the couch, enjoying a summer evening cookout with family and friends. Suddenly, a loud boom shatters the peace. Your dog jumps, whimpers, and hides under the bed. Fireworks season has arrived, and for many dogs, it’s a stressful time.

Fourth of July might be the most joyous holiday for some people. Yet, for our four-legged companions, it is a nightmare. Many dogs are afraid of fireworks. Today, I want to help you understand the problem. And offer solutions for how to make your furry friend feel safe and secure during these celebrations. Let’s take a look at some dogs and fireworks tips.

Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?

Have you ever had a moment when you were walking across the street, and a loud boom happened? It is a big shock. I know I have been distracted for a second when fireworks go off out of nowhere. Now, think about your dog.

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Dogs have a higher sense of hearing. Their sense is four times more sensitive. That is why your pup hears the neighbor when he is a block away. And can hear you coming home from a mile. But that superpower has its downsides.

Fireworks are loud and unpredictable, and that makes them scary for dogs. Those loud bangs and flashes can be too much. Your pup doesn’t understand where the loud noise is coming from. Or why it is happening.

As a result, dogs turn on their trigger for a fight-or-flight response. They feel anxious and scared. Simply put, their survival instinct kicks in. Let’s talk more about dog’s fireworks anxiety.

How to notice fear and anxiety?

I am sure most of you know the signs of fear and anxiety. Your dog is hiding and docking his tail. Nevertheless, let’s go over them again.

  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Whining
  • Hiding
  • Excessive barking
  • Drooling
  • Pacing

I have to say, out of these, my dog Milo shows only one. He is barking as crazy. But that is his way of coping with the problem. He is not hiding or whining. Sometimes, he might hop into my lap or go under the bed. But he is mostly barking as crazy.

Yet, when he is outside, he wants to run back home instantly. At home, he barks. Outside, he pulls to get home as fast as possible.

What can I say, he is a Jack Russell who was bred for hunting. We always joke at home how he is the “perfect hunting dog”. He will run away in fear at the first sign of danger.

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What are Some Calming Strategies?

I want to talk about the possible calming strategies, and then tell you what has worked for me. There are many things you can do to help your dog feel calm and safe during the loud fireworks season.

  • Create a safe place – Any cozy spot will do. The idea is to create a place that will be a safe haven for your dog to hide and run from firework sounds. You can do it with a crate, a small room, or even under the bed. But make sure to line the space with familiar blankets and toys and make it comforting. You can try adding loud noise-canceling curtains or earmuffs. But talk with a vet before trying them
  • Desensitization techniques – I’ve tried this with Milo, but it didn’t work for me. I know people that have achieved success with desensitization techniques. The idea is to get your dog comfortable with loud noises. You play recordings of fireworks at a low volume and pair them with positive experiences like dog treats or playtime. Gradually you increase the volume
  • Exercise and distraction – An hour or two before the firework sounds start, take your dog for a walk or play a game. A tired dog is less likely to be anxious. You can keep your dog distracted during the fireworks with chew toys or frozen treats
  • Calming aids – These include medications for anxiety, pheromone sprays, or thundershirts. Before trying any calming aids, make sure to talk with a veterinarian

What Has Worked For Me?

For the first two years of Milo’s life, he had no trouble with fireworks, thunderstorms, or anything similar. Yet, at one point, out of nowhere, he began showing stress. The first time he showed fear was almost a disaster.

We were outside walking, he was off-leash, and out of nowhere, fireworks began. Milo began running home and I couldn’t stop him to leash him. So, he ran all the way to our apartment. For info, that is a 5-minute run. Cars could have hit him.

So, I began looking at things that might calm him down. I tried different things. But what has worked for me is a combination of exercise and distraction. I tried desensitization first. But that didn’t work.

What I do is when I know there will be loud fireworks, I take him out for a playtime session. I tired him out, and then we went home. Five minutes before the fireworks begin, I take out a new, large ball. Those are his favorites.

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And we begin playing. Milo gets fixated on the ball and he completely ignores everything else. He might woof once or twice, but nothing more.

I have to say, one of the big reasons for my success is knowing my dog. I understand his character. I know Milo, and Jack Russells in general, get fixated on things. Once they set their mind on something, they forget everything else. So, I use it to my advantage.

Best Activities for a Happy Independence Day

Now, I want to give you an idea of a couple of activities you can try. The ball thing works for me. But you can try other distractions and activities for Independence Day fireworks. Let’s check more dogs and fireworks tips.

  • Play indoor games like tug, fetch, or anything else. But do not play games where your dog has free time to think about other things. Keep him engaged at all times
  • Stuff a Kong toy with treats or peanut butter and keep him busy licking and chewing
  • Prepare frozen yummy dog treats and give him to enjoy. You can try a frozen lick mat for example

Final Words

If you are outside and you know there might be fireworks or thunderstorms, keep your dog on a leash. To be fair, you can never know when he might show signs of fear and anxiety. Milo was fine for two years. Then, out of nowhere, he began running and barking.

Make sure to microchip your pets. That will come in handy in case your dog escapes. Everything can happen. Cover all grounds.

For dogs with severe anxiety, I recommend talking to a veterinarian about medication options. I’ve tried those as well. But they didn’t work for Milo. Yet, who knows, they might work for your puppy.

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