How to Help Dogs Scared of Fireworks

by Holly Nash, DVM, MS on June 20, 2014

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This post is from a few years ago, but we thought it was a great post to share again.

As the 4th of July approaches, many dog owners have a sense of unease, as they know their dogs are afraid of the loud noises that accompany fireworks. These noise phobias are common and can occur in pets of any age, though many dogs do not develop the problem until they get into their senior years.

In her later years, our last dog, Kip, became very frightened of thunderstorms and fireworks. She would pant, drool, pace, become very “clingy” and follow us wherever we would go in the house. Ironically, her noise phobias became worse as she became more deaf.

We used several approaches to help her through these tense times. We made sure she had access to the laundry room, which was the room in the house most insulated from outside noise. Sometimes we even ran the dryer on “fluff” to produce some “white”  noise that would drown out the sounds of the fireworks. We tried to be upbeat and give her toys and played games to make her less afraid. We were “there” for her, but we didn’t overly try to console or comfort her. We also used dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) and medications to help her through the worst times.

Kirby with his feline friend, Eddie.

Kirby with his feline friend, Eddie.

After Kip died, we got a new dog, Kirby, a a 10-month old from a shelter. (Read about our new dog!) We have no idea how he will react to fireworks, as this is his first 4th of July with us. He does handle thunderstorms just fine, so that’s a good sign. We plan to be home with him and to also provide fun activities during the loudest fireworks. We know he likes to lie in his kennel when he is tired, and he considers it a safe spot, so we’ll be sure he has access to his kennel during the fireworks. We’ll also reward him for showing relaxation or confidence during the fireworks.

I know firsthand that fear of loud noises is not fun for you or your pet. So, if you have a pet with thunderstorm or noise phobias, you may find it helpful to read our article Fear of Thunderstorms, Fireworks and Noise Phobias.

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**Originally posted in June 2010**


About the author: Dr. Holly Nash received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Master's Degree in epidemiology (the study of the transmission, distribution, and control of disease) from the University of Wisconsin. She has worked in a primarily dairy practice, as a veterinary epidemiologist, and as a companion animal veterinarian. Dr. Nash has been with Drs. Foster and Smith since 1998. She has always been interested in the human-animal bond and the education of animal owners, and finds being Editor of PetEducation.com a perfect match. She enjoys and has had experience working with many species of animals, and is a member of the American and Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Associations. See more articles by Dr. Holly Nash.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosemary June 21, 2010 at 11:32 am

My old Doberman mix, Gin, was terrified of thunderstorms, fireworks, vehichles with loud exhausts, you name it. We had to tranquilize her at times. She had been raised outside,on a chain, before I got her at the age of two, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. As she got into her teens, she started to lose her hearing, which meant that she could eventually sleep through all but the worst of storms.

One night, with no warning, a storm came up and we had a huge clap of thunder right over our house. It felt like an earthquake as the whole house shook from the force. Gin jumped up out of a sound sleep, and landed all 90 pounds of herself on the bed with us. Talk about a wakeup! Between Gin and the thunder, Rat Terrier Lucky decided he should also be scared also. Even the cats jumped and ran.

Lucky isn’t overly fond of storms, but he tolerates them better than Gin did. He panics at the sound of fireworks, however. He pants, whines, and shakes. He’d climb in my lap if I’d let him. When we had the house reroofed, I took him and puppy Ilka to the vet for a couple of days. I knew that people walking on the roof and all the hammering would send him into a tizzy. I have no idea how Ilka will react to the fireworks, but she doen’t seem to mind storms very much.

Keri K. June 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Mojito is not at all startled by loud noises, but he just doesn’t seem to like thunderstorms in general, and seems to end up in my lap during them. Then again, I don’t much like storms myself, so maybe he’s picking up on that!

Thomas Martin June 22, 2010 at 9:50 am

At one time, I had two lovable great danes. The female was afraid of the thunder and the male was afraid of the dark. They slept in my basement and on many occasions i would have to join them in their room with a flashlight to keep them both calm. Quite an experience.

Ellen B. June 22, 2010 at 10:30 am

I like your idea of running the dryer for white noise. I played the radio for my dog to drown out the sound of the fireworks.

Marianne Case June 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

I still cringe around the 4th of July after having a 110 lb. dog that was petrified during both fireworks and thunderstorms. Jena would crawl under small tables, or at least try to do this, and the memory of the fear in her eyes is haunting. I learned to stay with her, turn up the t.v. and try NOT to reinforce the behavior by consoling her. I tried some sort of medication to calm her down, but what I remember was having a dog that acted like an alert drunk stumbling around. I caution those that want to try tranquilizers until you have researched the topic and see what’s out there first. The BIGGEST thing anyone can do for families who deal with this, is to remember…the FOURTH OF JULY IS ONE DAY ONLY! I can’t stand it when people continue with the loud bangs and pops beyond the holiday. One firecracker would put my dog into a threatening state for an entire day or night. I couldn’t even get her to go outside for hours after she’d hear a bang. Tone down the celebrations, keep the fun to one day only, and remember that MANY animals are suffering with each crack and pop that you set off. I am lucky to have 2 Basset Hounds now that don’t seem to be too affected with this problem. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my young dogs won’t develop this fear. Don’t forget, there are animals in the woods that are just as frightened…

Melissa R. July 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm

My Irish Setter Molly had terrible noise phobias, so we really did NOT look forward to the 4th of July at all. Our only solution was to put her in a “safe room” where she had a bed she knew was safe, put a fan on HIGH ( a nice, NOISY fan), close all windows, turn on a TV or radio on the room…And we doused her with Rescue Remedy and the calming biscuits. This seemed to work for us! Good luck to all of you with frightened pooches. Remember not to baby them – that makes it worse!

Marie Salmon May 3, 2011 at 7:04 am

For any of those of you who have pets who are scared of Fireworks, try the Sounds Scary CD programme. It is AMAZING, and has even been scientifically proven to help dogs with firework phobias. My dog is like a totally different dog to how she was before, I hardly recognize her! Fireworks can go off next door and she doesn’t even flinch anymore – it’s like a miracle. You can get it online from soundtherapy4pets.co.uk Although it’s a UK company they ship all over the world, and you might also be able to get it from your local vets if you’re lucky! It really is a god send for dogs like mine who were so terrified by loud noises.

Cindy Ludwig, M.A., KPA-CTP July 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I hope Kirby does not develop thunderstorm anxiety! But if he does, or if any of your clients’ dogs develop thunderstorm anxiety, I would like to recommend that you try the Anxiety Wrap. I first tried this product on my own dog several years ago and was so impressed that I have been recommending to my clients with anxious or fearful dogs ever since. Recently Dr. Nick Dodman completed a clinical research study at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine that showed that the Anxiety Wrap is a “safe and effective treatment for thunderstorm phobia.” Specifically he found that the Anxiety Wrap was effective in 89% of the dogs in the study. I personally have seen a minimal effect with D.A.P. but a client of mine d good results with Composure. I have seen consistently effective results with the Anxiety Wrap, alone or in conjunction with an anxiolytic, for example in a dog with severe separation anxiety.

Claire H. July 2, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thank you so much for your recommendation. It is nice to see professionals who work with pets give us recommendations based off of the knowledge they have gained using certain products in their own lives and practices.

Dossie Garvey June 21, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I have a pit bull and when 4th of July comes I have a pair of ear muffs that I put on him before dark. He seems pretty comfortable in them and sleeps with them on. Solves the problem for all of us.

Enjoyed your article, good advice!

Fred Smith July 1, 2014 at 4:49 am

My dog Karla does the same whenever she hears thunderstorms or fireworks and all that we can do is to hug her and to make her feel comfortable. I am hoping that someday she get to overcome her fears. On the other hand, great article! :)

Jean Walter August 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm

My dog is so afraid of fireworks. As soon as she hears them, she goes into hiding.
Thank you for sharing this, it was a great read! :)

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