Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
Most people love fireworks; they symbolise celebration, revelry and occasionally relief, as people come together to look back, look forward and hang out with their loved ones… unfortunately, our furry friends aren’t feeling it. Dogs and fireworks don’t always mix.
They’re terrified of the booms, crashes and crackles permeating Christmas and New Years - and while those loud noises seem far away to our human senses, fireworks sound like the front row of a death metal festival in the canine ear canal. Imagine standing next to a large stage speaker without ear-muffs or the faintest idea of when the next song will start or stop - it would make anybody anxious!
Is Your Dog Scared of Fireworks?
Not all dogs are scared of fireworks, but most exhibit some degree of concern, particularly as rocket activity ramps up and the display reaches a crescendo. Aside from the physiological stuff you can’t detect on sight - increased heart and respiratory rates - there are both subtle and obvious signs to watch out for as the show goes on.
- Panting (outward indication of an elevated respiratory rate)
- Shaking (like they’ve just had a cold bath)
- Urination and/or defecation and/or anal sac secretions
- Avoiding eye contact and/or looking away and/or turning away
- Lip licking
- Lowered head and body
- Widened eyes
- Ears drawn closer to their head/pinned back
- Hiding and/or running away
What Happens When You Confront a Dog with Fireworks?
Fireworks trigger a fear response in pets of all temperaments, transforming an enjoyable human celebration into a potentially dangerous moment for your dog. What happens next comes down to their personality and whether they’ve been exposed to fireworks before; while you may have heard of fight (aggression) or flight (running away), dogs can also be fretful, frozen or fidgety. So why are dogs afraid of fireworks?
Copping an Earful
Our ears have nothing on the swoops and curves of a dog. We perceive sound in the territory of 20,000 hertz, while canines detect even the slightest noise up to 65,000 hertz. Imagine what those loud booms sound like to your best buddy - every firework is an audible assault waiting to happen.
They Don’t Know What’s Coming
Do you know what the New Year means to a dog? Zero. Maybe an unexpected stay at a kennel or longer periods of time spent by themselves at home, but in terms of anticipation and planning, they don’t mark the day in their doggy calendars. They don’t know what’s coming next, when the crackers and fiery foundation of light will stop (and start again) or why no two really look the same.
Fireworks Make Dogs Feel Threatened
Unpredictable, loud and numerous, there’s little wonder why dogs fall into a fearful headspace. The worst of it though is something we rarely think about as humans - due to their hearing powers, dogs cannot escape the crack of a firework, there’s
nowhere to go or hide. They can’t cover their ears or pop a couple of ear-plugs in.
Can a Dog be Traumatised by Fireworks?
A traumatic event such as a seasonal firework display can cause your pet’s fear response to quickly develop into a phobia - and once it’s there, a noise-related phobia is extremely difficult to treat. Remember, it is important that you do not punish this type of behaviour, even if you can’t see any obvious reason for it. Rewarding and praising your pet for calm behaviour is a good way to reinforce and train your pet to relax.
Fireworks and Dogs: Making it Work
Did you know that New Years’ Eve can have a devastating effect on the pets we love? Our friends at The Lost Dog’s HOme confirmed the theory that a large percentage of dogs and cats run away during fireworks shows, terrified by the sudden and unexplained sounds they can’t escape. We know you love your dog and while we don’t see our local communities giving up fireworks, there are steps you can take to ensure a roman candle fiesta doesn’t turn into an all night search party.
Step 1: Identify your pet and keep your details updated
Plan for the worst case scenario and ensure your dogs microchip details are updated with your name, number and address, making it easy for shelters and councils to find you.
Tip: Don’t rely on microchips alone - your dog could end up in the hands of a stranger without scanning technology. Dogs should never be without a tough dog collar and tag to take some of the pain out of identification.
Need ideas? Check out our extensive dog collar range.
Step 2: Plan Ahead
Keep an eye on local fireworks schedules and make sure you or someone your dog trusts will be around that night, in case comfort, kindness and lots of hugs are needed. Try not to leave your dog alone when you know fireworks will be exploding into the sky - they look to you for reassurance!
What if you’re out during a fireworks display? Let your dog indoors and create a little comfort den for them to seek out, in case they need to escape and feel safe.
What if my dog already has a noise phobia? Speak to your vet ahead of time and develop a treatment strategy to give your dog the best chance of getting through it with minimal trauma.
Step 3: Create a Dog Space
Speaking of comfort dens, make sure your doggo has access to their own little slice of safe harbour even if you are home. Crate trained dogs may already associate their crate with security, but if your canine isn’t used to the limited confines of a crate, your bathroom or laundry room will do nicely. Don’t forget to make it homey, bringing in their favourite bedding, toys and sleeping mats - white noise makers can even help drown out the sound overhead.
Step 4: Investigate Anti-Anxiety Shirts
Some dogs are soothed by calming shirts, vests and wraps - some are simple pieces of fabric to lend pressure in all the right places, while others are backed by technology, channeling a combination of vibration therapy and acoustics. You’ll be happy to know anti-anxiety shirts can also be used to comfort dogs during loud thunderstorms, making them a sound investment.
Intrigued? Best Friends Pets offers a range of anti-anxiety shirts for dogs here.
Are you ready for some good news? The strategies above can be adapted to any one of the noises that dogs hate, from fireworks and thunderstorms to vacuums and radios.
Do you need a little help in implementing this plan? Maybe your dog has specific needs or existing phobias - questions big and small, Best Friends Pets are always here to deliver answers. Reach out to our experienced veterinarians today and get through the next fireworks display together.
Note: Illegal backyard fireworks set off by amateurs can be particularly unpredictable and dangerous for pets (as well as people!). If you are aware of illegal fireworks in your neighbourhood, you can alert the police on 000.