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A dog’s hearing is 10 times more sensitive than a human’s — so the fireworks are likely to cause your dog some level of anxiety, stress and fear.
Must read: The Effects of Loud Noises On Dogs Hearing
Following are the most helpful dogs and fireworks tips, including:
- Tips for taking your dog outside to watch the fireworks with you.
- 11 things you can do in the hours leading up to the fireworks to keep your dog calm, happy, and stress-free on the Fourth of July.
- Tips if you live close to a location where the fireworks are set off in your town. (Or, if your neighbors all pitch in to create the “best” fireworks display near your home — like mine do!)
- 7 ways to calm a nervous dog on the spot if you start to notice your dog becoming stressed (pacing, shaking, cowering, hiding, barking) because of the loud noises and bright lights.
- Tips for staying home with your dog on the Fourth of July.
Dogs And Fireworks Tips
Can dogs be around fireworks?
Technically, YES. But it really depends on the dog. All dogs react differently to loud noises, big booms, bright lights, sudden pops, loud people, big crowds, and long sizzles.
As a responsible dog owner, you should do everything in your power to protect your dog on this night that is known to provide humans with an overwhelming amount of sensory overload. Now imagine… it is literally 10 times worse for dogs!
Since fireworks typically only happen once or twice a year, the sounds and lights are likely to:
- Catch your dog off-guard
- Confuse your dog a bit (or a lot!)
- Make them nervous and on edge
Remember… your dog’s hearing is 10 times more sensitive than yours!
If you want to enjoy the fireworks and you have a dog, here are your options:
#1 – If you’re thinking of taking your dog outside to watch the fireworks with you…
Think again! You and your dog will have a much more enjoyable evening if you leave the dog at home.
Plus, wherever there are fireworks displays, there are usually people setting off their own personal fireworks — including sparklers and firecrackers. Aside from the danger associated with your dog being in the wrong place at the wrong time (dogs and fire simply don’t mix), the mass hysteria, loud noises, and repeated flashes of light are likely to have a traumatic effect on your dog.
Whatever you do… don’t leave your dog in the car!
#2 – If you live close to a location where the fireworks are set off in your town…
Your best bet is to keep your dog indoors (preferably in a crate, if they’re already accustomed to spending time inside a crate). Leave your dog indoors somewhere where they are likely to do the least amount of harm — to himself, and to your house!
Also, turn on the TV or radio (with the volume turned up loud) to make it less likely that your dog will be able to hear the fireworks going on outside.
Since the flashing lights can scare your dog just as much as the loud noises, be sure to close all the curtains and blinds inside your home and turn ON all the lights in the room. This will make the bright lights from fireworks less noticeable to your dog. Closed curtains and blinds also provide a small degree of sound-proofing in your home — lowering the high pitched sounds a tiny bit.
#3 – If you’re staying home with your dog…
Without a doubt, the best place for your dog on this night is inside the house. Preferably your house — a place that your dog is already familiar with and a place where they feel comfortable.
Ideally, you would be in the room with your dog to monitor any stress or anxiety which might arise. Odds are there will be none, and you’ll simply be enjoying a night at home with your dog — but you never know.
Some dogs exhibit no signs of fear in their early years. Then as they get older, they suddenly become terrified by the loud noises and bright lights. (This is often due to a change in their hearing, as different tones and pitches begin to sound differently as a dog ages.)
Following are some great ideas for dog owners on the Fourth of July — 11 things you can do beforehand, and 7 things you can do on-the-spot the moment you notice a change in your dog’s stress level.
11 Things You Can Do Ahead Of Time To Prevent Dog Anxiety
Here are 11 precautions you can take ahead of time to prepare your dog for this stressful night:
- Make sure your dog is wearing their collar and ID tags on the Fourth of July. It’s the least you can to to ensure that you’ll get your dog back — should your dog escape in fear. In worst case scenarios, stressed out dogs have been known to chew through crates, garage doors, and even jump out of windows due to severe anxiety!
- If you’ve been thinking about microchipping your dog, do it now. We did! Both of our dogs are microchipped and it has provided huge peace of mind — just in case someone accidentally forgets to latch the gate in the backyard (pet sitters, lawn care workers, pest control companies, a neighbor, ourselves).
- Spend some one-on-one time with your dog in the hours leading up to the fireworks. The more personal attention your dog receives from you, the less likely they will be to resent being left alone later that evening.
- Take your dog outside to use the bathroom right before it gets dark — before people start setting off their own fireworks.
- Take your dog on a longer-than-usual walk, or participate in some active play with your dog. If you do this on the afternoon of the Fourth of July, it will tire out your dog and make him less likely to over-exert himself later if/when he becomes stressed from the sound of fireworks.
- Give your dog a relaxing rub-down or doggie massage an hour or so before dark. This will put your dog in a calm frame of mind early — which will help them to handle whatever stress might come later. (Here’s how to do dog massage and stretching exercises with your dog, plus how to massage your dog’s hips.)
- Give your dog a bath — assuming that your dog finds baths an enjoyable experience. Bonus points if you use an aromatherapy dog shampoo in a scent that is calming to dogs — like chamomile or lavender. (My favorite aromatherapy dog shampoo is Spa 4 Paws.)
- Play a rigorous game of catch or fetch with your dog in the early evening hours. This gives your dog a chance to burn off some energy and tire them out a bit. That way, your dog will have less drive (and energy) to become overly excited later — once the loud noises and fireworks start!
- Add some cooked potato (plain) or white rice (plain) to your dog’s regular meal that evening. Just like with people, carbohydrates will make a dog feel fuller and sleepier than usual. A tired and well-fed dog will be less anxious!
- Plug in one of those popular in-home air fresheners that releases calming aromatherapy scents into your home. Or, use some other type of aromatherapy tools (candles, diffusers, heat lamps, etc) to fill your home with a relaxing aroma from essential oils. Some good choices are Lavender, Juniper, Chamomile, Bergamot, Frankincense, Sweet Orange. (Here’s how I use aromatherapy with my dogs.)
- If you plan enough in advance, you can ask your vet for some dog anxiety medicine. You could also order something like Pet Calm pills (or spray)… or a Thundershirt which has an amazing calming effect on dogs!
7 Ways To Calm A Nervous Dog On The Spot
You may be wondering, How do I calm my dog down during fireworks on the Fourth of July once they become scared?
The moment you notice that your dog is becoming overly excited or anxious by the loud noises and bright lights, try one of these to calm your dog down during fireworks:
- Distract your dog with some of their favorite things. Your best bet is to pull out that one special thing that your dog only sees a couple times a year. It will be such a welcome surprise to them that they will become fixated on it, and they will focus less on the loud noises and flashing lights. (For our dogs, that would be a pressed rawhide bone or a marrow bone from the butcher — a rare treat in our home.)
- Interact with your dog in a low-key game of indoor catch. The interaction with you, and the act of participating in a dog-friendly activity will likely distract your dog from the fireworks going on outside.
- Give your dog a KONG toy (or some other brand of treat toy), stuffed with goodies. If it’s tasty enough to your dog, they will likely lose interest in the noises and lights and become fully focused on this special dog treat. Need ideas for things to stuff inside?… Try these one-of-a-kind Kong recipes!
- Introduce a brand new toy or treat (hopefully, a long-lasting chewy one!) to your dog. Perhaps your dog will be more interested in the surprise smells that are in their face, than the surprise sounds that are in their ears.
- Do not soothe your dog too much or “baby” them if they’re showing signs of stress during fireworks. As much as you may want to comfort your dog at this time, doing so will only make the problem worse. Instead, be cheerful and in control — act as if you don’t even notice the fireworks, bright lights, and loud noises. Also, don’t punish your dog — that will only make them more anxious, nervous, and confused.
- Try some basic aromatherapy for dogs. Certain essential oil scents have a very calming and soothing effect on dogs (and on humans as well). Here’s a list of which ones and how to use them.
- Put some ear plugs into your dog’s ears. I have some firsthand experience with dogs wearing earplugs in the pits at loud car racing events. And a few of our friends make a habit of putting dog ear muffs (similar to headphones) on their dogs at outdoor concerts and other loud events.
The Bottom Line
Can dogs be traumatized by fireworks?
YES – some dogs are affected so badly by the loud noises that they are unable to function. It could take a lot of time, patience, and practice to desensitize your dog to loud noises once they’ve had a bad experience.
Can a dog die from fear of fireworks?
YES – severe psychological stress in dogs can result in a shorter lifespan, compared to dogs without such stress. The fear alone won’t kill your dog, but if it’s severe enough, it could cause them not to live very long.
So… if your dog seems to be stressed or acts traumatized either before, during, or after fireworks, be sure to follow the tips listed above. Better yet, take the above precautions to avoid stressing out your dog in the first place!
Don’t miss these additional Fourth of July tips for dog owners from the ASPCA: Often Overlooked 4th of July Dog Safety Tips.
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I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn’t think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner — currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I’ve always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians — whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I’ve been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog — how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I’m not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I’ve written over 600 articles for dog owners on this site! Many of them have upwards of 200K shares.