A large grassy area filled with people, exciting sounds, and tantalizing barbecue smells would be a dream come true for some dogs. However, other dogs may fear the crowds and unknown noises, or it may all be fun and games until it gets dark, and the first pop of a firework sends them into a panic.
Why do some dogs like loud festivities like public celebrations and fireworks while others cower in a corner? The exact reason depends on the individual dog, but we’ll look at six likely reasons why your canine may not be a fan of your Fourth of July fun.
The 6 Reasons Your Dog Barks at Fireworks
1. Fear of the Unknown
This may be especially true if your dog is still a puppy or can’t see where the fireworks are coming from. Dogs can hear about four times as well as we can, so an extremely loud noise coming from an unknown source can be terrifying for them.
Your dog might remember previous festivities where there were fireworks and have anxiety from that time. Even if your dog had a scary encounter with another loud noise such as a truck, they might have PTSD from that experience and react the same way to fireworks.
3. Bright Flashes of Light
Your dog could be reacting from the sudden bursts of light rather than the sound. They are also more likely to be scared of fireworks if they are scared of thunderstorms because of the thunder and lightning.
4. The Smell
Fireworks give off a smoky smell that might lead your pup to think fire is nearby. Barking or agitation may be their way of alerting you about what they might perceive to be a life-threatening event.
5. Loud Noises
Fireworks are loud, sudden noises that can be ear-piercing to a dog from a close distance. Additionally, your pup doesn’t know the reason they’re coming to the show, and they may be unprepared for such an intense stimulus.
If your pup isn’t much of a social butterfly, the fireworks could actually be less of an issue than the noisy crowds. Try taking your dog far away from the main event to watch the show with you if you suspect they’re overwhelmed by all the people but might enjoy the main event. This should also help lessen the noise of the fireworks themselves if that is the problem.
Instead of hiding in fear, your dog may decide to lash out and fight because the fireworks may seem like a threat. This response can be especially scary if there are other dogs or people nearby who could get attacked. If your dog responds like this, try to calm them down and remove them from the situation as quickly and safely as possible.
What Can I Do to Make My Dog Less Afraid?
It’s easier to coax a new puppy into enjoying the fireworks than an older dog with years of firework trauma. Regardless of their age or experience, you should never force your dog into coming to the fireworks show. Doing so may result in them bolting off in a flight response or, even worse, biting a nearby spectator in a fight response.
Here are some tips if you want to try to take your dog to the show:
1. Invest in some ear protection
Something like the Calming Cap by Happy Hoodie wraps around their ears and heads, reducing noise and making them feel swaddled. It can also be useful for ear protection from the cold during winter.
2. Desensitize their response
See how they react by playing fireworks at a low volume on your TV or phone before the show. If your pet is reacting from fear, they might be more comfortable with the fireworks if they’re relatively familiar with the sound and there are no unpleasant associations.
3. Come early
Let your dog settle down and become comfortable with the crowds before the fireworks go off. You might be able to tell by their reaction to all the noise if they’re going to be a good candidate to watch the show or if you should leave early just in case.
4. Sit far away from where the fireworks will be launched
Try to figure out where the fireworks will be shot and sit far away. Avoid sitting beside buildings that might echo and amplify the sound. You might even want to watch from your car if possible so you can leave in case your dog isn’t as big of a fireworks fan as you’d hoped.
5. If your dog does freak out, speak to them in a calm, reassuring voice
Never scold your dog for being afraid. If they’re barking, it’s because the fireworks are unfamiliar or they are scared. Yelling at them will make their response worse and might reinforce their need to be anxious.
What to Do if the Fireworks Are Near Your Home
You know your dog better than anybody, and sometimes fireworks just aren’t for them. That’s okay. If you think your dog will panic, bolt, or become aggressive as a result of the fireworks, please leave them at home for their well-being. For a dog who’s extremely anxious about fireworks or loud noises, even at home, you may have to:
1. Find a dark, quiet place away from windows
Make your pet comfortable in a part of your house where they can rest and feel safe. You can even play white noise on a sound machine if it would help block out other sounds. If possible, your dog’s safe place should be away from windows where they might detect sudden flashes of light.
2. Put them in a Thundershirt
The Thundershirt is a tight-fitting vest that may help ease your dog’s anxiety by making them feel like they are wrapped in a warm hug. If your dog is also scared of thunderstorms, this may be a worthwhile investment you can use throughout the year.
3. If possible, stay home or find someone to sit with them
We understand your human family may need you at the festivities, but leaving your scared pet alone in the dark while fireworks are going off may intensify their response next year. Try to find a sitter if you must go out during fireworks.
Whether your dog will be joining you for the Fourth of July picnic and fireworks or they need to stay behind, making the right decision for your dog will make them feel safe and loved. Never force your dog into a situation where they might react out of fight-or-flight. July 4th is statistically the worst day of the year for losing your dog, and it’s estimated that 1 in 5 canines run away each year because they were spooked by fireworks. Knowing ahead of time how your pup responds to different stimuli will help you make the most appropriate decision for their safety.
Featured Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shutterstock