“I love fireworks” said no dog ever.
I consider it a cruel irony that the things I love most about fireworks – the sudden flashes, bright colours and echoing blasts – are the same things that make my best friend want to run and hide. While fun for humans, the loud, unexpected sounds of fireworks cause stress and anxiety for most dogs. As Canada Day approaches, here are some facts on why fireworks make dogs anxious and tips to help you keep the experience calm.
Why don’t dogs like fireworks?
Fireworks are scary for dogs for a number of reasons. The bright lights and booming sounds would be scary by themselves, but these lights and sounds appear out of nowhere and disappear again not to be seen for another 12 months. Unlike humans, dogs don’t know that Canada Day is coming. They aren’t expecting fireworks so the experience is quite startling. Though many dogs are afraid of thunder, thunderstorms actually come with way more warning than a fireworks show. Things like changes in barometric pressure and high winds help dogs, so many dogs are better able to anticipate them. Since fireworks are sudden and occur less frequently than thunderstorms, dogs can be even more stressed by them. Even dogs that are usually calm in noisy, crowded situations can react to a firework display.
It should be stated that there are dogs who aren’t afraid of fireworks. Some dogs are naturally very mellow, but more often than not, dogs who aren’t afraid have been prepared for “scary” circumstances by desensitization. Hunting dogs, for example, are exposed to a range of sounds and experiences starting from a very young age so that when they grow up they are used to the sound of shots fired. Most hunting dogs are generally unfazed by the sounds of firecrackers.
If you have a puppy at home right now you may be able to desensitize them to loud noises such as fireworks, thunderstorms, alarms and more by making the experience positive by offering treats and praise while remaining calm yourself. Thanks to clips on Youtube and other providers, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to have the sounds of fireworks. You can start the desensitization process whenever you are ready. Just know that this this takes months of practice while very gradually increasing the volume it cannot be done in a week leading up to Canada Day.
Preparing for Canada Day:
If your dog is afraid of the noise from fireworks, please know that it’s natural. The sounds trigger their nervous systems and they can become very anxious or afraid. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct and dogs may escape and run from their owners, their yards or their homes when their survival instincts are triggered. Each year, lost dog networks across the country see a spike of activity around Canada Day. By planning ahead and creating a comfortable, quiet space for your best friend, you and your dog can enjoy a happy and safe celebration. Here are my tips for the big day:
The first thing you are going to want to do is give your dog plenty of exercise the day before the fireworks start. Remember to always keep in mind the heat as well as your dog’s age and limitations while exercising. Having expended some energy during the day will make her calmer at night.
The second thing you will want to do is bring your dog indoors as this will minimize the noise compared to being outdoors in a yard or dog run. Dogs left outdoors during a fireworks can find a way to escape. Even in a securely enclosed yard, their fear can compel them to accomplish things you thought were impossible like climbing fences, scaling walls or jumping great heights. Bringing your dog to the actual fireworks show should be out of the question as the sounds, smells and sights will be incredibly destressing. A dog can spook so badly during a fireworks display that they slip out of their collar “Houdini-style”.
Select A Safe Space
The best place for your dog during the fireworks display is in a familiar safe space (like her crate) in a quiet part of your home. If your dog is not crate trained or used to being confined to a small space within your home, you will need to select a space to use in advance and let your dog get used to hanging out there with a favourite toy, water and some treats. Being unexpectedly locked in a small room for the first time could cause issues before the fireworksstart! Be sure to remove all cleaners, chemicals and other potential hazards before leaving your dog alone. Everyday items like shampoo or dryer sheets can be toxic.
Close windows and blinds to minimize noise and strange lights. Playing some music also helps enormously to minimize scary noises. Make sure your dog is comfortable and start the music before dusk as this minimizes any initial scary noises. Continue to check on her throughout the night and remember that you being calm is one the most important things you can do in this situation - If you’re panicking and stressed, she will be the same.
If you follow these tips and still aren’t having much success you may want to look into calming wraps and shirts that work much like a human baby’s swaddling cloth as they might make your dog feel more secure.
We have lots to celebrate here in Canada. As a nation of dog lovers, let’s make sure our dogs enjoy Canada Day as well!