Summer is right around the corner, and that means long nights, cookouts, and firework celebrations. Between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, fireworks are an inevitable part of summertime. But for many dogs, that also means fear and anxiety.
More dogs go missing between July 4-6 than any other time of the year. Across the country, animal control organizations report a 30%-60% increase in lost pets during that time.
If your dog struggles with firework-related anxiety, read on to learn how to keep them calm and safe this summer.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
For dogs that struggle with anxiety, fireworks can be a major trigger. In fact, a 2013 study found that fireworks were actually the most common trigger for fear responses in dogs. Signs that your dog is afraid of fireworks include:
- Lip licking
- Trembling or shaking
- Excessive alertness
- Pinned back ears
- Refusing to eat
- Seeking comfort
- Whining or barking
The cause of noise aversion, like the anxiety induced by fireworks, is still being studied, but researchers have discovered a few possible causes.
Your dog's fear could stem from an environmental cause, like a traumatic noise-related event during their puppyhood or a lack of socialization to loud noises.
Recently, however, more research suggests that noise aversion could be biological with higher chances linked to specific breeds. A 2015 study looked at 17 different dog breeds and showed a higher level of fear in breeds like Norwegian Buhunds and Shiba Inu, and a lower level in Pointers and Great Danes.
8 Tips to Comfort Your Dog During Fireworks
If your pup is one of the many that gets anxious during fireworks, don't worry. With a little bit of preparation, you can help your furry friend stay calm and safe this summer. Here are our top tips:
1. Keep Your Dog Inside
While it may be tempting to keep your dog outside during the summer, especially if you're having a backyard party, dogs with firework-induced anxiety will be safer inside.
Having your dog outside risks them escaping your yard or potentially injuring themselves in an attempt to run away from the noise. If you plan to visit a fireworks show, it's best to leave your dog at home with a trusted family member, friend, or dog sitter.
2. Make Sure Your Dog Is Microchipped
Because so many dogs go missing during fireworks displays, having your dog microchipped and wearing proper identification tags is vital.
Microchips store an up-to-date record of your name, phone number, and address, and they can be easily scanned by a local animal shelter or vet. If your dog does escape, having a microchip makes it 2.5 times more likely that they will be reunited with you.
3. Create a Safe Haven for Your Dog Before the Fireworks Start
If you know that fireworks are planned for a specific day, you can take steps beforehand to keep your dog calm and comfortable.
If possible, create a safe, calming space for your dog to stay during the fireworks that's away from windows and doors. This will prevent them from seeing the fireworks, which can add to their anxiety levels. Fill this space with things that are comforting for your pup, like a cozy bed and toys. If your dog is crate trained, having their crate inside the space is also helpful.
If the room isn't quiet enough and they can hear the fireworks, play white noise like a fan, TV, or classical music. This can help drown out the scary sounds and keep your pup calm.
4. Exercise Your Dog During the Day
Your dog needs exercise every day, but during fireworks is not the best time to take them for a walk. You can't always know when fireworks are going to be shot off. But you can assume it will happen at night, in the dark, where the fireworks are visible.
Take your dog for a walk during the day, when the chances for fireworks are minimal. This is also a good idea on days you know fireworks are likely – like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Exercise helps your pup burn off excess energy that could contribute to their anxiety later.
5. Use a Pressure Wrap or Anxiety Vest
Many pet owners have found success using some kind of pressure wrap or anxiety vest during fireworks displays. These apply consistent pressure to your dog's torso, providing a calming effect, like a hug or a swaddle for a baby.
While there is little scientific evidence that these products work, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence from pet owners. So, it's worth a shot to see if it helps ease your dog's anxiety.
6. Talk to Your Veterinarian
If your dog's anxiety during fireworks is severe, talk with your vet about potential medication options to help reduce their symptoms. This can be especially helpful during Memorial Day or the Fourth of July when the fireworks displays are likely to be longer and grander in scale.
Your veterinarian may also be able to recommend additional treatment options, like therapy or calming supplements.
7. Distract Your Dog with Toys or Puzzle Treats
If you're able to get your dog's attention while the fireworks are going off, offering them toys or puzzle feeders to work on can be a great distraction.
Filling a lick mat, Kong, or other puzzle feeder beforehand and freezing it offers a great challenge for your dog. It also has the added benefit of forcing your pup to lick, a naturally calming behavior for dogs.
8. Comfort Your Dog
Many people think that comforting your dog when they're anxious will make the situation worse. But comforting your pup is a great way to ease their anxiety and make them more relaxed.
The key is to remain as calm as possible. Dogs can pick up on your own anxiety, and this can exacerbate their fear. Stay calm, and talk to them in a soothing, quiet voice. Petting in slow, long, firm motions is also a great way to soothe your dog.
Are You Prepared for Summer Fireworks?
For pet owners of fireworks-averse dogs, the summer can be stressful, but you're not alone. Fear of fireworks is common for dogs, and with the right techniques in place, you can help keep your pup calm and comfortable throughout the season.
If you are concerned about your pet's anxiety, dog insurance may be able to help. AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) offers coverage for alternative treatments, such as behavioral therapy, if the treatment is recommended by a veterinarian*.
Pet insurance can help protect against unexpected veterinary bills when your dog is sick or hurt, so you can focus on helping them feel their best. Get a quote today!
*Following a 30-day waiting period from the start of coverage. If anxiety is pre-existing, you may be subject to a 365-day waiting period.