Why Are Some Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?

Summertime brings with it lots of great things including backyard barbecues, pool parties, county fairs and lots of outdoor activities. Your pets love to participate in these activities with you and enjoy every second of the fun. Until the fireworks come out. Even though fireworks are banned in many cities across the country, during summertime, especially around the holidays, people bring them out and “light up the sky”.

Although fireworks can be fun and exciting, there is a percentage of our beloved pets who are sensitive to and frightened of fireworks displays. The loud noise and light display may seem harmless enough, but they can send even the biggest, bravest dog scurrying under the bed or into the closet to get away from the noise. While fireworks noise sensitivity affects mainly dogs, it has been seen in cats and other pets. What is it that’s so scary for our dogs?

  1. The noise: Depending on your proximity, the noise from fireworks can be jarring, startling and just plain annoying. Remember, dog’s sense of hearing is quite different from humans and all those pops, whirs and booms can be quite a jolt.
  2. The unpredictability: Fireworks constantly set off the startle reflex because of the unpredictable nature of the boom. Your pet (and you yourself) never know when the next one is going to go off, so it is easy to get into a constant state of anticipation and arousal waiting on the next big boom. this can  wreak havoc on your pet’s stress levels and ability to relax.
  3. Perceived as a threat: That loud, unpredictable noise can be interpreted as a threat by your pets and the natural reaction to a threat, particularly an unseen threat is to run.
  4. Genetics: Recent studies have shown there is a genetic predisposition to fear reaction to fireworks in certain dog breeds This may explain why some dogs sleep through them, and some are climbing out of their skin. There may also be a hormonal component with females being about 30 percent more likely to be fearful and neutered dogs about 70 percent more likely.
What can I do to keep my pet safe and calm during firework season?
  1. Be prepared: Provide your dog with a safe space as far from the noise as possible. Give them a cuddly bed, maybe some treats and sit with them to add comfort and reduce their anxiety. It’s also important to keep them indoors and to ensure they don’t escape. If they try to escape from the noise, they may inadvertently escape your home, get lost and not be able to find their way home. ASPCA statistics show that 1 in 5 lost pets go missing as a result of fireworks displays.
  2. Medication: Consider some anti-anxiety medication such as Adaptil or CBD Oil to help reduce stress and make your dog feel more relaxed.
  3. Pressure wrap: Recent studies have shown that pressure wraps or calming vest that apply even, slight pressure around the dog provide some anxiety relief.
  4. Desensitize: You can try to desensitize your dog over time by introducing small doses of the offending noise so they become acclimated to it. Don’t force it, and you must be patient and introduce the noise in very small doses until they become more accustomed and accepting of the noise.

Dealing with a dog with a noise sensitization can be a challenge during fireworks season, but with a little preparation and a lot of love, you and your dog can see your way through.

Sources:

https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/what-if-your-pet-goes-missing-during-4th-july-fireworks-theres-app

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/good-and-bad-ways-to-help-a-dog-afraid-of-fireworks/

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