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Is Your Dog Afraid of Loud Noises Like Fireworks? 5 Tips to Keep Him Calm

posted Jun 23, 2010, 6:36 PM by Angela G
[cross-posted from Dr. Jon's Dog Crazy Newsletter]

Is your dog afraid of fireworks? Many dogs are. The loud noise of fireworks can send these dogs into a state of panic. Some dogs have even had seizures during fireworks.

4th of July is right around the corner, so it seemed like the right time to talk about this problem. Many cities and municipalities will be having their fireworks displays and neighborhood parties will also be shooting off loud "boomers", so if your dog is frightened by the noise, this could help.

At this time of year, many dog owners complain about their dog's reaction to fireworks. The combination of loud noises and bright lights can scare dogs, even those that don't normally have a history of noise phobias.

Lots of dogs have phobias, and the most common dog phobia is fear of noises.

Let me tell you about my friend's family dog, Ginger. She was adopted from the pound as an adult dog, so I have no idea what breed she is. Ginger is absolutely terrified of thunder, gunshots and fireworks. When she hears these noises, she totally panics. I was at their house one night when it started to thunder. Ginger went from being one of the most laid back dogs I've ever met to a total manic mess. She was trying to dig her way into the kitchen cupboards, pacing and whining. The noise terrified her, and she was absolutely miserable.

Ginger's phobia is not uncommon. Many of our dog lovers have asked about what they can do when their pets become anxious or nervous. It's a real problem, especially now with the upcoming 4th of July holiday.

Some dogs will exhibit signs of fear that can include pacing, panting, trembling, salivating, trying to escape and/or barking. Many dogs will actually injure themselves when trying to escape. (I've even seen dogs that were hit by a car when they tried to flee from noises.)

What can you do to help keep your dog calm during fireworks?

Here are some suggestions:

1. Consider not taking your dog to the fireworks display. Make sure that your dog will be calm at home, or stay home with your dog during the fireworks. Keep your dog confined in a comfortable location if possible.

2. Don't try too hard to reassure your dog during a fearful event with petting, soothing words, or extra attention. This can sometimes exacerbate the problem by reinforcing your dog's fearful response.

3. Some dogs are very sensitive to people's moods and may be influenced by the way that you react to the noise. It is best to act happy and upbeat or to redirect your dog's attention to some absorbing activity.

4. If you must leave your dog at home alone during the fireworks, consider what would make your dog most comfortable. Bring your dog indoors. Would he feel safest in a crate? Try turning on the radio, television, fan or air conditioner as "white noise". Make sure you provide a comfortable hiding place or "safe place" for your dog in case he is scared during the fireworks.

5. Pet anxiety studies have shown that music can have a calming effect on a stressed out pet.

So, the best way to deal with this issue is to be prepared. Before the fireworks begin, anticipate your dog's reaction to these loud noises. Whenever possible try to avoid exposing your dog to fireworks.  If this is not possible, do everything that you can to make your dog feel more comfortable and secure. Talk to your dog in a light, cheerful tone that sends a comforting message that the noise is no big deal. Encourage your dog to find a quiet restful place to wait out the noise.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Until next time,

Dr. Jon