Fireworks are a problem for sensitive dogs every year, but this year, they’re a scourge. Almost everywhere, it seems, people who have been cooped up for months are heading out every night to set off what seem to be professional-grade fireworks. (Conspiracy theories about the source of these fireworks abound, but no one can agree on much except that they’re loud, constant, and unnecessary.) If you’re dealing with a dog who’s freaked out by fireworks, take heart: There is relief in sight. Here’s how to help them cope.
Keep them home
Scared pets can bolt, so keep that in mind if you take your pup outside after the sun’s gone down. Make sure they have a tag with your contact information, and have a recent photo saved on your phone. Use a leash — or, if you can, keep them home, where they’ll probably be more comfortable.
Exercise earlier in the day can help some dogs’ mood later on (a tired dog is a happy dog, they say) so consider a long walk or a trip to the dog park before the festivities get going.
Create a calming environment
Where is your pet most comfortable? Make them some space to relax, and do your best to eliminate the sights and sounds of the fireworks. Close the blinds so they don’t see the flashes of light, and put on some music, white noise, or TV to drown out the sounds of distant fireworks.
Recognise the signs of fear
A scared pet may pace around, drool, shiver, or seek attention (for example, pawing at you or following you around). They may also chew things they shouldn’t, or pee on the rug — either out of fear, or because they don’t want to go outside.
Don’t punish these behaviours; your pet is reacting out of fear, and isn’t in the mood to process the fact that you’re trying to teach them a lesson. When you notice these behaviours, just reassure your pet and try to keep them comfortable.
Don’t make them listen
It would be great if your dog were used to the sounds of fireworks, but the day they’re going off is not the time to attempt to teach them. If you do want to desensitize your pup, you’d have to start weeks or months in advance, playing videos of fireworks softly in the background — something to think about for next year.
Consider an anti-anxiety vest
Some pet owners swear by the Thundershirt, a vest that provides gentle pressure, like a wearable hug. Other companies make similar products, and you can make your own with a snug t-shirt or by wrapping your pup with an Ace bandage. Try this out in advance, so that you know whether it works and aren’t trying to squeeze a frantic dog into a tight shirt for the very first time while fireworks are going off.
Ask your vet about medication
This is another one to think about in advance, but a veterinarian can advise you on medication to help your pet stay calm. Sileo is approved specifically for noise aversion in dogs, and it’s a gel you apply to your dog’s gums before the fireworks start. Other medications, like sedatives, might be appropriate, but ask your vet for advice on those.
This post was originally published in July 2019 and was updated June 22, 2020 by Alice Bradley. Changes include: updating first paragraph to reflect current news.