Fireworks are a thing of dread for so many pet owners because of how much their dogs can fear them. There’s quite a variety of reasons why dogs are so scared of fireworks, and it can be utterly heartbreaking to see them in such a state. Especially because we feel powerless to do anything about it, which can cause us a great deal of anxiety and worry too.
You’ve seen fireworks before, right? They make unpredictable banging sounds and bright flashes of light – it’s no wonder that so many dogs are terrified of them.
When dealing with a dog that’s scared of fireworks, it’s important not to ignore them or assume that they’ll get used to it eventually. It’s also important to remember that our dogs rely on us for support, so it’s up to us to give them the reassurance they need. If you have a dog who’s scared of fireworks, we’ll help you put a plan in place to help them overcome this phobia, and not feel so panicked when it’s New Year’s Eve or Bonfire Night.
In this article, we’ll be going through the reasons why dogs are scared of fireworks, how to recognise the signs of a dog that’s scared of fireworks and things you can do at home to help and keep your dog safe if your dog is scared of fireworks. We’ll also give you information on how to help prevent or overcome firework anxiety in puppies and medications you can speak to your Vet about.
Many phobias come from a negative experience or a lack of early socialisation. In the Zigzag app, we have a fantastic step-by-step programme for teaching your dog about noises and sounds when they’re young pups so that they’re not bothered by them as adults. Download the app and learn how to teach your puppy that fireworks, thunderstorms, sirens and other scary noises are no big deal. We have that and many more lessons to share with you. If you have any questions, a team of puppy coaches is ready to help you 7 days a week. What a treat.
Why are dogs scared of fireworks?
Dogs are scared of fireworks because they kind of come out of nowhere, they’re loud and bright. Fireworks terrify many dogs because they sound like explosions which activate their fight/flight system; causing them to panic. To a dog, fireworks are completely alien – nothing safe in nature would sound like a firework. Makes complete sense, to be honest.
For some dogs, firework and noise anxiety is inherited. It has a genetic component so it’s likely that either your dog’s parents also struggled with it, or your dog is from a breed that is known to have noise sensitivity. For other dogs, it’s due to a lack of positive exposure to noise in their socialisation window. You may find dogs who come from puppy farms or mills more likely to be scared of fireworks. Don’t get dogs from puppy mills by the way – bad idea.
Many dogs who are scared of fireworks have generalised noise anxiety and are also scared of thunderstorms, high traffic or busy areas, and noisy appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners.
Having a negative experience with noises when your puppy is in a fear period can also result in them having a long-lasting noise phobia.
How will I know if my dog is scared of fireworks?
A dog that is scared of fireworks will be able to tell you how they’re feeling through its body language. They’ll often pace, tremble, drool, hide, or give you other signs that they’re frightened. Let’s dive into the signs that your dog may be scared of fireworks.
A dog scared of fireworks may begin shaking and trembling
If your dog begins to shake or tremble uncontrollably when they hear fireworks, you can be certain that this is a sign of them being scared. Hormones like adrenaline are released when a dog is scared; high levels of them can cause muscle twitching and even spasm.
Fireworks can cause your dog to pant or drool
Excessive drooling and panting are often seen in dogs who are scared of fireworks. In dogs, one way the body responds to stress is to pant and hyper-salivate. Humans experience a somewhat similar thing – you know when we hyperventilate when someone cuts into the queue.
A firework phobic dog may dig
Digging behaviour is often seen in dogs who are experiencing anxiety. Your dog may dig at their bed, your sofa or your carpets. Some people say this is a way your dog is trying to create a den or nest. Alternatively, it can also be seen as a displacement behaviour; your dog’s stress is related to the energy that they need to get out.
You should know that displacement behaviours are normal dog behaviours, but it’s all down to context. Digging a hole in the garden for fun would be normal, but digging into your sofa in a panic is not. Our full guide to puppy digging has a lot more information about this if you want to learn more.
Your dog may whine
Dogs will often cry or whine to show that they’re scared of fireworks. Whining can be a self-soothing behaviour which means your dog feels good for doing it. But it is indeed also a way of letting you know that they’re scared.
Your dog may bark very loudly
Some dogs will bark at fireworks and loud noises. Barking is a natural way for a dog to respond to a threat or stressor. Barking can mean your dog was startled or they’re trying very hard to get the threat to go away by attempting to scare them off.
Firework anxiety can cause dogs to hide
Some dogs will just want to hide in a small space away from the scary crashes, bangs and wallops. It generally makes them feel safer – no claustrophobia in this case. They might crawl into the tiniest of spaces or just retreat to the back of their crate.
Your dog might shut down when scared
Some dogs will go into a catatonic state when repeatedly exposed to high levels of anxiety and stress. We call this ‘’learned helplessness’’. It’s often when they’ve tried other strategies to try and get themselves to cope or get out of the scary situation, but it’s not worked.
How to keep my dog calm during fireworks?
If you have a dog who is scared of fireworks, then you’re probably asking yourself the obvious million dollar question: ‘’How do I calm down a dog who is scared of fireworks?”.
Well, there are in fact, some things you can try. Here’s our take on what you can do at home, to keep your dog calm during fireworks:
Close your windows, curtains and cosy up indoors
Block out outside noises by shutting up your house. Shut blinds, close curtains and windows as a first step to keeping your dog calm during firework season.
Muffle firework noises with other sounds
If you’re not sure your dog is scared of fireworks, using some kind of sound deadening or muffling to block the noise of the fireworks is a good idea. This can be a white noise machine, turning the TV up loud or playing classical music. This idea is that you’ll cover up the sudden and unpredictable bangs with a more constant level of noise.
You can also hang extra blankets or sheets on the windows to create more of a noise-cancelling space. Your living room might look like a haunted house, but will definitely have the opposite effect for your dog.
Walk your dog before it gets dark
Most firework displays are at night, so go out for exercise, playtime and walks nice and early in daylight so that you don’t need to go out after hours. A tired dog will generally be more sleepy and relaxed, so take them on a good, mentally enriching walk before you think the firework frenzy will start.
Consider an indoor dog toilet if you live in an apartment.
Get your dog or puppy used to an indoor potty in a place like your bathroom, so you don’t need to take them out for quick wees when firework displays are in full swing. This will be especially useful if you’re toilet training a puppy in an apartment or flat.
Give your dog a den
Many dogs appreciate somewhere to go and hide, whether it’s a crate with a blanket over the top or a pillow fort between your sofas. Your dog will be eternally grateful for having the option of going in there if they want to.
Read our full guide to crate training to learn more.
Provide plenty of chews for your dog
Chewing releases endorphins, which helps dogs relax. They work in a similar way to stress balls for humans; they’re something active your dog can turn to if they’re stressed. Kongs and puppy chews prepped in advance are brilliant during fireworks – especially when you can stuff them with yummy treats and peanut butter.
Use interactive feeders
Puzzle toys, interactive brain games, and DIY enrichment toys can also be used to help distract your dog from the fireworks. They’ll also mentally tire them out as well, which will make it easier for them to relax and doze off for a good night’s sleep.
Consider using pheromones and other natural products
Some people find great results in using calming herbs like Scullcap and Valerian. Aromatherapy scents such as lavender or synthetic pheromones like Adaptil also work fantastic when it’s firework season.
Anxiety wraps help some firework phobic dogs
Using Tellington-touch style body wraps, or Thundershirts may help some dogs to feel safer. They’re a bit like weighted blankets for humans: some of us love them, some can’t bear them. If your dog struggles with the crashing sounds falling from the sky, they’re worth a try. They definitely fall into the ‘can’t hurt, might help’ line of anti-anxiety dog products.
Comfort your dog if they’re worried
If your dog is scared, they may be extra cuddly. Don’t lie, you know you love it when they do this. Getting extra cuddly is perfectly fine! Do what you need to help them feel safe – we’re sure you wouldn’t just ignore them or roll your eyes…but just in case, don’t do the latter. Their feelings are important!
If they don’t want cuddles then this is also fine. The important thing is that we meet our dogs’ emotional needs. It’s all about them at this point.
How to keep my dog safe during fireworks?
As well as keeping your dog calm when it’s firework season, we must learn how to keep them safe too. Scared dogs will often bolt or get into potentially harmful situations when they panic; you certainly want to stay away from anything like that happening.
Here’s our tips on keeping your dog safe at fireworks:
Supervise your dog and be there with them
If you have a dog who is scared of fireworks, don’t leave them home alone. Scared dogs can injure themselves by pacing or digging. Some panicked dogs have been known to jump out of windows!
Make sure your dog is wearing an ID tag
The easiest way to return a found dog is by calling the owner, so do make sure your dog is wearing an ID tag. It’s also a legal requirement for dogs to have an ID tag in the UK, so make sure you have one to avoid getting into trouble.
Check your microchip details are up to date
Too often, dog owners forget to update their microchip details when they get a new phone, or move house. Contact your provider to make sure they have the correct details for you in case something were to happen.
Consider an air lock system in your home to prevent escapes
If you can, consider always having 2 doors between your dog and exit points. This means your dog can’t just run out of the lounge and straight out of the front door if a visitor calls – they’ll be held back by an extra door that keeps them off the street safely.
Will puppies ever overcome their fear of fireworks?
Yes! Counter-conditioning can help puppies overcome their fear of fireworks. It’s not a quick process or something you start the day before bonfire night, but it’s worth calling a behaviourist to assist you in creating a behaviour plan.
Counter conditioning works by changing the association in our dog’s mind: From ‘yikes, that’s scary’ to ‘oh, was that a fart? Almost didn’t hear it’.
The very best way to help your puppy cope with loud noises is to socialise them from the beginning. We want to show them that loud noises are no big deal, and often mean treats! Puppy socialisation classes will often have exercises to help with novelty and sounds too. Why don’t you have a look?
Should my dog be on medication for their phobia of fireworks?
If your dog is really scared of fireworks and nothing else seems to calm them down, you can contact your Vet for medication choices. Some will be long-lasting and heavily sedating which means your dog won’t remember the fireworks at all. Others may have a lighter effect, allowing them to see fireworks as things that aren’t as dangerous as they seem.
One example is Sileo, a popular treatment to hit the market. It’s received a lot of excellent feedback because it is not as sedating.
Some people have also recommended products like Benadryl to help sedate their dogs when they’re afraid of fireworks. We recommend always consulting your veterinarian before medicating your dog; what works for one dog may not work for yours, and we want to prevent all potentially dangerous situations.
We hope you’ve found our article on why are dogs scared of fireworks and how you can help, useful. In a nutshell, fireworks are scary for them because they’re loud and unpredictable. You can be of fantastic help by providing them a safe, indoor place for everyone to hang out and be together. If they’re showing you that they’re scared, comfort them with those delicious cuddles you give, and treat them with things to do to take their mind off the fireworks.
For some dogs, medication will be the thing that works best to help them to feel better, but make sure to contact your vet about that first. Firework phobia can definitely be worked on with the help of a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist. Why not contact them? We’re sure they’ll be happy to help.
An interesting thing about dogs with fireworks and noise phobias, in general, is that we often see it go hand in hand with separation anxiety. Have a read of our full guide on dog separation anxiety. If this doesn’t sound like your dog, perhaps you’d like to learn why dogs hump? We’re sure that question’s been on your mind regardless.
Download the Zigzag puppy training app today, and we’ll guide you through all of the training you need to help prevent firework anxiety. We’ve got heaps of other great stuff for your puppy journey you’ll find useful like:
- Teaching your puppy nice lead walking
- How to come back when you call them
- And some fun tricks to show off to your fellow dog parents at your local park.
In this journey, we want you to know you’re definitely not alone. Feel free to get in touch with our team of dog trainers when you have any questions, run into hiccups, or simply want a piece of friendly advice. They’re there for you 7 days a week. Other Zigzag users refer to them as their lifeline, so you can tell they’ll be fine for you.