Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks? Plus Tips to Keep Them Calm
Fireworks are a source of excitement and joy for many, but the loud noises, bright lights, and unfamiliar sounds can also be very scary for dogs. If you’ve ever been around pets during a fireworks celebration, you’ll know that dogs in particular experience a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding fireworks; even the smallest sparkler or popper can startle them under the bed.
However, knowing why dogs are scared of fireworks – and how to abate their fear – can be incredibly useful for Bonfire Night and similar occasions. In this blog post, we’ll examine exactly why dogs dislike fireworks, how owners can help their pets cope, and how to create a dog-friendly environment during such events.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
Dogs are scared of fireworks for three main reasons: their acute hearing, their inability to understand, and their evolutionary instincts. There are also certain factors which can exacerbate a dog’s fear of fireworks, such as a past trauma and environmental conditions.
First off, as you might expect, dogs have a much better sense of hearing than we do; their ears pick up sound waves from farther away and at higher frequencies. And because it’s very difficult for dogs to recognise what fireworks are, the confusion and unpredictability adds to their stress.
As a result, fireworks often trigger a fear response in dogs, and their instinctive reaction is to run away or hide – much like ours would be, even as humans, to a loud and unfamiliar sound.
On top of this, just as many of us still harbour fears based on past trauma, dogs have the same trauma response to fireworks: if they already associate the sound with fear, they’re bound to have an extreme reaction.
Finally, environmental factors may also impact how a dog experiences fireworks. For example, if they’re in an unfamiliar setting or isolated from their owners, it can increase their feelings of vulnerability and fear.
All this makes it vital to address your dog’s fear of fireworks – otherwise, they will become increasingly sensitised to the sound and their fear will only get worse.
How to Keep Dogs Calm During Fireworks
With the right preparation and knowledge, all dogs can learn to cope with fireworks in a healthier way. For owners, there are two main strategies to keep pets calm on nights like Bonfire Night. These strategies are a) blocking out the noise and b) helping the dog with their natural response. Ideally, you can combine both of these to keep your dog as calm as possible during fireworks.
Blocking out the noise
Here are a few tips on how to block out the noise of fireworks for your dog:
- Close the windows and curtains in the room. This will help hugely to reduce loud noises and flashing lights. And while it might seem obvious, it’s worth doing in advance – just a few seconds’ worth of fireworks can frighten your dog for an entire lifetime.
- Play music or use a white noise machine. These techniques will also help prevent your dog from hearing too many fireworks, and may even be a fun novelty for them. If there’s a particular style of music your dog seems to enjoy, focus on that!
- Try earplugs or earmuffs for your dog. If your dog is truly terrified of fireworks (and fine with being handled around the ears), you could also look into doggy earplugs and earmuffs. There are great memory foam options available, as well as external muffs and coverings to experiment with – though we’d definitely recommend doing so in advance.
Helping your dog with their response
If you’re unable to block out the fireworks noise, or if you simply want to combine tactics for maximum impact, here are a few more tips on helping your dog with their response:
- Ensure they have a designated “calm” space or hiding area. Though it might seem counterintuitive to let them hide from fireworks, your dog will feel much calmer with access to their safe space. Leave the doors open to their favourite rooms and, if you like, arrange a soft space for them with their bed, blankets, and toys.
- Stay with them so they know everything is okay. Even if your dog chooses to hide from the fireworks, they may still feel panicked by losing sight of you – so try to stay with them and talk to them in a calm voice as the fireworks are starting. If you have to retreat to the other room, leave them with an item or toy that smells like you.
- Consider herbal remedies or pheromone-based products. While many people may be hesitant to medicate their pets for fireworks, it could be worth it to protect your dog from trauma. Look into herbal supplements or a pheromone-based product like Adaptil – just be sure to talk to your vet about it beforehand.
- Try densensitisation techniques. If you have time in the days and weeks leading up to Bonfire Night (or any other event with fireworks), consider playing your pets recordings of fireworks at increasingly high volumes to desensitise them to the sound. While it’s unlikely that they will get to a point of having no response whatsoever, this can still lessen their anxiety quite a bit.
Of course, there’s another way to address your dog being scared of fireworks and greatly reduce the likelihood of trauma: simply use dog-friendly fireworks in the first place.
What are dog-friendly fireworks, you ask? These specialised fireworks offer reduced noise and visual effects. Most dog-friendly fireworks contain no gunpowder and produce low-level, often colourless visuals. This creates a much more relaxed atmosphere that minimises the stress for dogs while still providing an enjoyable display for humans.
Dog-friendly fireworks offer a great alternative to traditional displays, allowing owners to keep their beloved pets calm while still celebrating in style. For more information, check out our primer on What Are Low-Noise Fireworks? or browse our extensive selection of quiet fireworks right here – so that next Bonfire Night, you and your dog can both have a marvelous, stress-free time.