How To Train Your Dog to Tolerate Fireworks

With the Fourth of July right around the corner, everyone is focusing on fireworks and parades and some good barbecue.

What many families aren’t thinking about this week is their dog’s safety.  Unfortunately, many pets will run away this weekend in a complete panic.  Today, I want to talk about some great ways to keep your dog calm this week, as well as during other stressful events (like thunder storms.)

How to teach your dog to tolerate fireworks

1.  Leave Your Dog Home

For the love of everything, do not take your dog to fireworks displays.  It doesn’t matter if he likes rides, or you want to take him, or you think he’ll have fun.  Just. Leave. Him. Home.

Here’s what happens.  You think your dog will love the experience but will get a little afraid at the fireworks.  He wears a leash and collar, and maybe even a harness.  You won’t let go of him.  Yet, every year, tons of dogs slip their collars, or panic so hard that their owner drops the leash.

Plus, he’s freaking out before that happens.  It’s never cool to put your pet in a situation when you know they’ll panic.

2.  Give Your Dog a Happy Place.

Calm dogs happen when they feel safe.  One of my biggest principles is trust.  Your dog has to always trust that you’ve got her best interests in mind.  When your dog knows that they can always escape anything by going in their crate, they will automatically hide there when stressed.

Crates are the safest place for your dog.  He’s in a cage, which is in a room, which is in a house–that’s three doors he has to go through to escape.  His crate is his safe place, let him stay there.

3.  Calming Devices

Maybe your family wants a quiet night at home, but the neighbors clearly bought out the stand and will be setting off fireworks for the foreseeable future.

Products like Rescue Remedy provide a homeopathic relief for stress.  It’s placed on the dog’s tongue, and calms the dog during stressful situations.  It can also be used for long car rides, routine vet exams, and grooming sessions if your dog is not socialized properly.

The Thunder Shirt provides another level of relief.  Essentially, they work by overstimulating the dog’s nervous system.  When too much physical contact happens, the nervous system can’t focus on anything else (like loud noises) and the dog is calm.  This principle is also reflected when putting a baby shirt on a cat, causing most cats to tip over.

If your dog frequently acts anxious over normal, every day things, talk to your vet about a prescription medication.  If your dog completely loses it every Independence Day, talk to your vet about drugs that can calm him for the day.

4.  Stay With Him

Dogs, being pack animals, prefer to stay with their pack when they are stressed.  Stay with your dog, but don’t support her fear.  If possible, crate her and stay in the same room, calmly reading.

Make sure you stay calm.  If you act as though there’s something to worry about, your dog is going to pick up that vibe and worry.  Sometimes we worry about our dog’s reaction, but that just cements in the dog that they should worry.

5.  Train Her Ahead of Time

If you know your dog fears loud noises, you can work to acclimate her ahead of time.  This strategy uses a lot of time and planning, but can pay off if your dog will experience fireworks frequently (like if you have teenage boys and live out in the sticks.)

Start on a calm, quiet day months ahead of time.  Use snaps–the little ones that pop when they are stepped on.  Pop one, and give a high-value treat, like bologna or hot dogs.  Pretty soon, your dog will realize that pops mean treats.

After a week or so of this, have someone set off bottle rockets or firecrackers in the back yard, and treat your dog indoors.  Slowly work your dog closer and closer to the back yard while your helper sets off fireworks, then cut back on the amount of treats.

Soon, your calm dog will snooze through fireworks and thunder like a pro.

6.  What if your dog displays general anxiety?

If your dog displays anxiety over normal, every-day events, check out our Separation Anxiety guide.  Your dog will learn calming behaviors, which help with firework and thunder sounds.

How have you helped your dog?

Have you used another technique to develop your panicky dog into a calm dog?  Share below!


Nitish Meena

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