How to Train Your Dog to Accept Fireworks

Easy
1-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

While you and your family might eagerly await the annual fireworks display, your canine friend is likely to be huddled under some furniture shaking like a leaf. The deep and loud sound of fireworks may startle us, but such sensitive canine hearing can leave your dog feeling like bombs are being dropped overhead. He might not be eating his food, he may stop drinking, and he might not be able to sleep.

Training your dog to accept and live with fireworks will save him serious anguish. Seeing your dog trembling for hours on end isn’t easy, so if there are steps and measures you can take to reduce that fear, it’s a no-brainer!

Defining Tasks

Due to the serious fear that fireworks can bring out in dogs, training isn’t always a walk in the park. You will need to take a number of steps to reduce his fear. A big part of training will be gradually desensitizing him to the terrifying sound. If your dog is young and a puppy, then overcoming the fear may take just a week or two, if he has had a deep-rooted fear of fireworks for many years, then training may take many weeks to yield results.

Fortunately, the measures you can take as an owner are straightforward and it’s vital you follow them for the wellbeing of your dog. Dogs who experience such extreme fear may develop behavioral problems and fears in other areas of their lives. So be patient and persistent and you’ll soon have your dog smiling through fireworks.

Getting Started

Before you get to work with your canine pal you will need several things. His favorite food or treats will be needed to calm and reward him during fireworks. You will also need some recordings of fireworks and an audio device to play them with.

You will also need to ensure your dog’s den is comfy, homey, and a safe shelter when fireworks do start to go off. Apart from that you just need 10 minutes a day for the next few weeks and a proactive attitude and you’re ready to begin!

The Prep and Protect Method

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3 Votes
Prep and Protect method for Accept Fireworks
Step
1
Feed early
Feed him way before you expect the fireworks to start. Many dogs will be so terrified from the fireworks they won’t be able to eat their meal. This can leave them scared and hungry, which is not a pleasant combination.
Step
2
Wear him out
Give him a very long walk before fireworks start. The logic to this is simple, if he is knackered then he will find it much easier to sleep through the fireworks. If he is full of energy, it will all be focused on the deafening sound.
Step
3
Stay calm and relaxed
Dogs look to the pack leader (you) to see how to behave and feel in situations. If you’re calm and collected, he may well take that as a sign that he is safe and relax too.
Step
4
Encourage
Give him treats and praise throughout the fireworks. Regular food and cuddles will help him feel more at ease and reinforce that he doesn’t need to be scared. If you can’t be there during fireworks night, find someone he is familiar with to stay and spend time with him.
Step
5
Stick together
Don’t isolate or lock him away. If you shut him away to deal with the fear himself, then the fear may become even worse and be even harder to overcome in the future. Instead, it is important you show him you are there to support him.
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The Managing Environment Method

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Effective
2 Votes
Managing Environment method for Accept Fireworks
Step
1
Provide a safe place
Ensure his bed is super comfy and offers a secure place to retreat to. When dogs are scared they like to retreat to their territory where they feel safe from the scary sounds around them. This could mean you get him a crate or a roofed bed in preparation for fireworks night. This extra shelter will make him feel much more at ease on the big night.
Step
2
Visit beforehand
Ensure his bed is super comfy and offers a secure place to retreat to. When dogs are scared they like to retreat to their territory where they feel safe from the scary sounds around them. This could mean you get him a crate or a roofed bed in preparation for fireworks night. This extra shelter will make him feel much more at ease on the big night.
Step
3
Consider a thunder shirt
These devices can be bought from a range of online retailers and local pet stores and can be really effective in reducing fear during fireworks. They work by gently applying pressure to your dog’s chest, helping to calm his breathing and reduce fear and anxiety.
Step
4
Consult your vet
Many dogs are so terrified of fireworks that to slowly reduce their fear they need to be mildly sedated. There are a number of different options that will help your dog slowly drift off and be less aware of the fireworks around them. You can then slowly reduce the strength of the medication until it is no longer needed.
Step
5
Follow through
Try all of the above methods at least several times before you give up. With a fear that has been ingrained for years, it will often take several times of trying a measure before you see success. So don’t give up just because he was still scared the second time, be patient! You can also use any of the above steps in conjunction with each other.
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The Desensitization Method

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Desensitization method for Accept Fireworks
Step
1
Cue the audio
Head online and find an audio recording of fireworks. Ensure the sound is clear and the clip is long enough that you can leave it to play for up to 10 minutes. You are going to gradually introduce him to the sound and break down his fear, prior to fireworks night.
Step
2
Start low
Place a speaker in the same room as his bed and play the clip on a very low volume. Make sure he doesn’t look too startled. If he is shaking or trying to escape the room, turn the volume down.
Step
3
Play it cool
As the clip plays, sit with him and praise him for his calm behavior. Be sure to shower him with attention and be upbeat and jolly. Many dogs gauge how to feel and behave from their owners, so if you are relaxed he may mirror that.
Step
4
Repeat
Play the clip each day for 10 minutes and slowly increase the volume. The key to this training is to build up the volume very slowly. If he looks terrified you are going too quickly and you need to decrease the volume. Be sure to sit and play with him throughout the clips--you can talk to him, encourage him to play and even give him the occasional treat.
Step
5
Separate
When you can play the clip relatively loudly and he doesn’t appear scared, leave the room and watch through a window. You now want to ensure he is still relaxed and calm even when you aren’t there to distract him. It may take weeks to get to this stage, but this gradual process will help him overcome his fear and ensure he can be left alone on fireworks night.
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/05/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Trudy
Greyhound
6 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Trudy
Greyhound
6 Years

Our little girl is afraid of thunder and fireworks. She has A thunder shirt.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Aw she looks like such a sweetheart! So for now, I would continue with the thunder shirt. But dogs often need something to replace that space in their brain if that makes sense. They learn by conditioning and associating. So far she has associated the sounds with fear. If we can teach her to associate the sounds with good things like games or treats, she will eventually get over her fear and actually start to expect good things when she hears the sounds. The next time you are around loud noises, attach her to her leash, and just start giving her super tasty treats. You can work up to asking for commands, but the first few times, simply tasty treats that fall from the sky! If she isn't super treat motivated, you can try to distract her with toys or games she likes.

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Question
Tux
Chihuahua
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Tux
Chihuahua
1 Year

Crying when I leave my room for a little bit and messes up the potty pad

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to give you some training information on how to work with your dog to use a potty pad. Choose Your Spot Pick a space in your house where you want your dog to go. Obviously, you’ll want this spot to be a low-traffic area. Make sure this spot is easily accessible to your dog, and make sure the floor surface is linoleum or tile, as opposed to carpet. If your dog “misses,” it will be easier to clean up. If the only spot you can put the pee pad is a carpet, you might consider getting a small tarp to put underneath the puppy pee pad to guard against spillage. Choose a spot that is outside of your “smell zone.” An important tip to remember is to make sure not to let your dog decide the spot he likes. Not only might he pick an area you won’t like, but he’ll learn that he is in charge – not you – which can cause a host of problems down the line. Monitor Your Dog When you are potty training your dog, full-time monitoring is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to correct bad behaviors if you don’t see them happen. Dogs have very short memories. It is important to catch your dog in the act. If your dog goes on the floor, and you try to correct him hours after the fact, he will be confused and upset, not knowing what he did wrong. This can hinder training and your relationship with your dog. Puppies, in particular, must be watched constantly. They have less control over their bowels and will go when they have to go. If you miss these moments, you lose precious training opportunities. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to be with your dog 24 hours a day, but try to spend more time at home during the weeks you are potty training – it will pay off in the long run. Learn Your Dog’s Schedule Dogs, for the most part, are predictable. They will go to the bathroom at predictable times. You should be able to learn when your dog has to go based on timing as much as on his signals. Take some time to study your dog’s bathroom habits. You’ll learn the amount of time after he eats or drinks that he has to go, and you’ll get in rhythm with his daily bathroom schedule. This will help you reduce accidents and speed up the potty training process. Studying your dog’s habits can also help you identify his bathroom “triggers” – like having to go after a certain amount of playtime. Once you learn your dog’s schedule, use it to your advantage in potty training. Bring him to the pee pad a few minutes before he normally goes, and encourage him. This will help him get used to going in the right spot, and help you establish repetition in your training. Choose a Command Word Dogs have keen senses – they respond to sight, smell, and sound. When you begin pee pad training, choose a command word and use it every time you take your dog to the pad. Just about any word will work. The tone of your voice is more important than the actual word. Try phrases like “go on” or “go potty” in a slightly elevated, encouraging tone. Make sure to repeat this same command, in the same tone, every time you take your dog to the pee pad. Avoid Punishment When your dog has an accident, it’s just that – an accident. When you punish your dog during potty training, he will become confused and scared. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, and can’t understand why the person he loves most is mad at him. Most importantly, it will not help his potty training. Positive Reinforcement Both human and dog behavior is largely based on incentives. Dogs’ incentives are very simple – they want to eat when they are hungry, play when they are excited, and sleep when they are tired. But the most important thing your dog wants in life is to please you. Use this to your advantage. Whenever your dog goes on his potty training pad, shower him with lots of praise. If he sees that he gets praise for doing his business on the pad, he will be incentivized to keep going on the pad – and he’ll be excited to do it! Potty training – whether it’s a pee pad or going outside – will take time, but if you do it right, can take less time. Many dogs are potty trained in less than two weeks. Just remember that you and your dog are partners. Do everything you can to help him learn the proper etiquette, and you will enjoy a long, quality relationship together. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

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Question
Spud
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
7 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Spud
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
7 Years

Fireworks basically , I need to get him to ignore fireworks I've tried alot of things and the only thing that worked slightly was Xanax , it's becoming a bigger issue each year

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jack, I would combine a few things since this can be a really hard area for a dog. First, I would try some pressure therapy, via something like a Thundershirt. Second, I would desensitize pup to the noises of fireworks, using a recording, starting on a low volume as background noise, while you do something really fun with pup to help them tune it out - like past paced trick training with favorite rewards, a game of fetch, tug of war, ect...Look for high energy, fun activities that pup will really engage in. Start with the noise really low and watch pup's body language. It should be low enough volume that pup's body language still looks relaxed. Practice a little every day. When pup is completely tuning the noise out and happy, increase the volume very gradually, a little at a time, only to the point where pup can stay looking relaxed. Over a period of 1-2 months or so you will increase the volume incrementally during the very fun activity. Third, during actual fireworks, act confident and upbeat. Pull out some favorite games, practice commands and tricks pup knows with favorite treats, and keep things fun and upbeat. You want pup to be in a working mindset, focused on something other than the fear. Don't act sorry for pup, pet or reward the fearfulness in anyway, or act nervous yourself. You want to mirror confidence. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
TaunTaun
Pomeranian
13 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
TaunTaun
Pomeranian
13 Years

I’ve tried literally EVERYTHING!!! Thunder Hold method, Thunder Shirt, medication and even was successful at training him to movies/stereo firework noises (voice commands;” Only TV, your safe “)
Sadly he was severely abused, and I rescued him from a puppy mill, he was literally fused to the chicken wire fencing and had to be shaved to be removed. He had heart worms, and some having the rapid kill procedure, he developed a seizure disorder. So he is already taking a medication that should keep him sedate during loud, popping/banging noises. But it truly has NO EFFECT whatsoever! He becomes sooooooo anxious during any sort of “outside noises” that happen to sound like gunfire/fireworks, he’ll work himself into a seizure. Witch then takes anywhere from 2-3 days to recover from. HELP!!!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
944 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cindi, I suggest contacting someone who specializes in behaviors like extreme anxiety and aggression. Check out SolidK9Training.com. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Last year we went camping and no fireworks were allowed at the park. Our dogs had their best 4th of July ever!

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