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Fireworks Fear in Dogs

Help your dog get through fireworks season.

Is your dog afraid of fireworks? Many dogs have a fear of loud noises, and this is especially relevant leading up to and on the Fourth of July, when there may be an abundance of explosions and other loud sounds occurring for extended periods of time. Follow the tips below to help your dog feel more calm and comfortable during the commotion that often occurs around this summer holiday.

  • Provide a safe place for your dog to hide. Many dogs will seek a hiding place after hearing the first crack of fireworks, so it's a good idea to set up a room beforehand that can serve as a refuge for your dog while the racket is going on outside. A good choice is a small room or crate because most dogs will try to hide in small spaces such as a closet, the bathtub, or under the bed. The small quarters will be comforting to your dog and help him feel safe. Put your dog's bed and favorite toys in the room or crate so he'll have familiar items around to help him feel calm. After setting up a safe area, play some soothing music or turn the TV on to mask some of the outside noise.
  • Keep your dog safe and secure. It is very important to keep your dog inside before, during, and after the noise of fireworks. When dogs panic, they run. As a result, many dogs go missing on the Fourth of July. Putting your dog in the safe area at least an hour before you anticipate fireworks going off will give him time to adjust to the space and will ensure that you have him well-confined before he has an opportunity to escape in search of a hiding place of his own.
  • Check that your dog cannot harm himself while he's in the safe area. When some dogs panic, they will do anything to escape, so it is imperative to remove any items that your dog may try to chew or scratch through in an attempt to flee. Also make sure your dog is wearing his collar with his identification information, just in case he does escape before you are able to get him to a safe area. While your dog is indoors, be sure to keep all fireworks out of his reach. Unlit fireworks contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs if they are ingested.
  • Leave your dog at home. Since your dog is a member of the family, you may be tempted to take him along to enjoy a fireworks show. But if you have the slightest doubt about—or have never seen—how your dog reacts to fireworks, it is best to leave him at home. Fireworks can provoke so much fear and panic in dogs that sometimes even the best-behaved and most mild-mannered dogs go into a state of terror that is difficult to control.
  • Reassure rather than reinforce. When your dog is afraid of something that is not a true threat, it is natural as a human to want to sit with him, talk to him in a sweet, loving voice, and tell him that everything will be fine. But these actions serve to reinforce your dog's sense of fear. If your dog is hiding and out of sorts because of fireworks, it is best to treat him as you normally would when there are no fireworks going off. You want to project calmness and avoid enabling your dog's anxieties.
  • If necessary, remove your dog from the situation. Some dogs have such an intense fear of fireworks that they may need to be temporarily relocated to a quiet area on the Fourth of July or on other occasions during which fireworks are used. If your dog is in this category, take him to a family member's or friend's home that is far away from any fireworks activity, if that option is available, or to a relatively calm and quiet kennel.

Therapies to Calm Your Dog During Fireworks

  • Noise Aversion Medication: Sileo is a medication specifically developed for dogs to help alleviate noise aversion and anxiety, including fear of fireworks. It contains the active ingredient dexmedetomidine, which is a selective alpha-2 adrenergic agonist. Sileo is available in a gel form and is administered orally by applying it to the dog's gums using an applicator syringe provided with the medication. Click here for more info.
  • Adaptil (D.A.P), or dog appeasing pheromone, is a product that can help calm your dog's nerves. This pheromone is similar to the one mother dogs exude to soothe their newborn puppies. That familiar scent may create a sense of safety and relieve some of the stress that fireworks and other loud noises (such as thunder) may cause. Adaptil is available in a spray or diffuser that is perfect to use in the crate or safe area where you'll contain your dog in anticipation of fireworks. You can also buy an extended use collar version of the product. You can read more about Adaptil and how it works here.
  • Bach Flower Remedies has an all-natural Rescue Remedy product for pets that you can apply directly to your dog's skin or add to his drinking water or food to help soothe him through stressful situations. Rescue Remedy can be used in conjunction with other therapies for fireworks fear.
  • Anti-anxiety medication may be necessary in extreme cases of fireworks fear in dogs. You should consult with your veterinarian to determine if anti-anxiety medication is appropriate for your dog. Never give any human prescription or over-the-counter medications without talking with your veterinarian first.

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