Pacing, hiding, whining, trembling — if your dog is afraid of fireworks, you probably know these behaviors quite well. Fireworks are supposed to be a joyful event. Unfortunately, for firework-phobic dogs and their parents, the opposite is true. You may be wondering what you can do to comfort a dog for the upcoming New Year’s fireworks celebration, and we’re here to help. Below are some of the most successful strategies for comforting a dog during a firework display — New Year's or otherwise.
Pheromone sprays are a holistic approach you might try to calm your dog’s nerves. These sprays mimic the chemical composition of a mother dog’s scent and help soothe fearful pooches. Behavioral studies on dog-appeasing hormones for the treatment of canine anxiety yielded promising results. One group of independent researchers found pheromone therapy reduced outward signs of stress like hypervigilance, whimpering, and nervous urination.
Many pet parents assume sedatives are the only solution to calming a firework-phobic dog, but vets say that meds should be a last resort. However, many dogs do find success using over-the-counter (like Benedryl) and prescription meds (like Valium) for this purpose. More potent meds, like benzodiazepines, will require a veterinary prescription. Always consult your vet before administering medications formulated for human use.
Some pet owners swear by essential oils to help comfort their dogs in high-stress situations. Bergamot and lavender oils seem to be the top picks for this method and have much anecdotal support. Essential oils are a slippery slope since many are toxic to canines. Steer clear of citrus, ylang-ylang, mints, pennyroyal, birch, pine, and tea tree when making aromatic concoctions for pooches.
Fearful dogs need a comforting and secluded place where they can escape the loud noises and bright lights. A blanket-covered crate, a secluded bedroom with space under the bed, and blanketed closets make great hideaways for a fearful pooch. Never try to drag your dog out of their hideaway during fireworks since this will only heighten their anxiety.
Sometimes it helps to put on a loud movie or music before the show starts to drown out the noise. Loud sounds may not comfort your dog during the New Year's fireworks, but it can prevent them from knowing what’s going on outside. Be aware that loud music can actually make anxiety worse for some dogs. Use your best judgment on whether this tip is worth a try.
Loud noises (like from fireworks) are one of the most common reasons why dogs run away. Prevent this from happening to your fur-babies by closing off any escape routes. Keep all doors locked and closed during the show and block off any gaps in your fencing. Use a leash and a harness if your pup needs to go out to potty during the exhibit. Since fireworks often cause dogs to run away, it’s a good idea to get your dog microchipped. A microchip will help you to be notified if your woofer is taken to a clinic or shelter.
Take them out for a potty break before the show starts and make sure they have something on their stomach. This will reduce the chances of nervous urination and prevent them from leaving their safe space once the show starts. Many dogs with anxiety will start retching if they don’t have something on their stomach. Hopefully, with their belly full and some music playing, they’ll be able to sleep through the whole event.
The most important thing you can do to comfort your dog during New Year’s fireworks events is to be present for them. If your woofer is hiding in the closet, go in there with them. Give them gentle pets and cuddles to let them know everything is okay. Dogs reflect our emotions, and if you’re up in arms, they will be too. Having you there will let them know there’s nothing to be afraid of and that they’re loved.