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Why Are Dogs So Scared of Fireworks? & What to Do About It

New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July are two of America’s favorite holidays, and people love to celebrate by gathering with friends and family and setting off some festive fireworks. Unfortunately, the fuzzy members of your family probably aren’t as keen on the fireworks as you are. The loud, unexpected noises and bright, flashing lights send many dogs running for cover under the bed or table.

In this article, we’re going to provide some insight into what makes some dogs so frightened by fireworks and give you some tips and tricks for helping them feel more comfortable. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be better equipped to help your best friend enjoy the holidays as much as you do.

What Makes Fireworks So Frightening for Dogs?

There are several reasons dogs aren’t big fans of fireworks. Some factors are easier to guess than others, but all of the following causes combine to make fireworks stressful and disturbing to your pooch.

1. Noise

The most obvious source of anxiety for dogs when it comes to fireworks is the sound. When fireworks go off nearby, the sound can be extremely loud with a sharp, concussive character. Fireworks that go off unexpectedly and sufficiently close will probably give you a start, and your furry friend’s hearing is about four times better than yours.

dog afraid of fireworks
Image Credit: robertindiana, Shutterstock

2. Unpredictability

Besides being incredibly loud, fireworks don’t have a regular frequency and can happen out of the blue at any time. Dogs can’t learn to predict and adapt to fireworks because they don’t follow any discernible pattern.

Other loud noises like vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers aren’t as disruptive to dogs because they become familiar thanks to their consistent, long-lasting nature. Thunder is another phenomenon that bothers many canine companions because it is unpredictable, like fireworks.

3. Fight or Flight

When dogs—or any other animal, really—senses a threat, they kick into their fight or flight response. Fireworks are loud and unpredictable, which makes them seem like a dangerous attack that needs to be dealt with.

Some dogs respond to fireworks by attempting to hide. It is very common to see dogs seek out a small, confined space that makes them feel safe like their crate, under the bed, or even in the bathtub.

Other dogs respond to fireworks by going on the attack themselves. Many dogs will run around the house barking at the windows in an attempt to be proactive and warn the threat not to mess with them.

Unfortunately, neither a fight response nor flight response is good for your little buddy. One of the most difficult aspects of fireworks for your dog is the ubiquitous, inescapable nature they have. No matter where your dog goes, there’s nowhere they can’t hear the fireworks, making it seem like the threat is coming from everywhere at once.

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Tips for Helping Your Dog Feel Safe During Fireworks

We’ve already established that there’s nowhere to hide from fireworks since your dog’s hearing is good enough to pick them up from virtually anywhere. If your dog isn’t afraid of car rides, hopping in the car and going for a ride with some music on could be a good option. We don’t include this on the main list because some dogs will still be able to hear fireworks even in the car with the radio on, and also because some dogs find the car stressful, and it could compound the problem.

scared puppy
Image Credit: evgengerasimovich, Shutterstock

1. Remain Calm Yourself

Dogs are remarkably perceptive of their owner’s moods and stress level, so if you freak out and make a big deal out of fireworks, your dog will take that as a cue to be concerned themselves. Try to be nonchalant about fireworks and don’t make a fuss or show out of reacting to them.

2. Bring Your Dog Inside

Even dogs that practically live outdoors need to be inside during firework displays. It will be slightly quieter for them inside and also keep them safe from falling debris. If your dog is extremely stressed and outside, they might find a creative way to escape from your yard, attempting to find a safe place to hide from the fireworks. Indoors is the safest place for your furry friend during fireworks.

3. Give Them Access to a Safe Spot

If your dog is crate trained, make sure they have access to the crate if they want to hunker down and wait it out. If they aren’t crate trained, try making a cozy spot for them in the bathroom or other small room. Fill the space with blankets, their bed, and a few toys. The more familiarity your dog has with their surroundings, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to relax.

dog hiding
Image Credit: mattycoulton, Pixabay

4. Get Your Dog a Thunder Vest

In extreme cases, dogs with anxiety can benefit from wearing a tight shirt. The constant pressure makes them feel safe and can help them stay calm during thunderstorms, fireworks, and other stressful situations.

5. Desensitize Your Dog to Loud Noises

This one is a long-term solution but is the best way to prevent your dog from being frightened by fireworks. By continually exposing your dog to increasingly louder stimuli, you can train them to treat loud noises as just another feature of the world instead of something unusual and scary.

The best way to desensitize your dog to loud noises is to occasionally and unpredictably play thunder sounds or firework recordings over a speaker. Slowly increase the volume over time, making sure to give your dog enough time to adapt to each subsequently louder level. If you do this slowly over weeks or months, your dog will recognize loud noises as just part of life and won’t freak out when the fireworks come out on the holidays.

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Conclusion

Fireworks can be extremely scary for your furry friend, but thankfully it’s possible to help them feel safer if you know what to do. The best approach is to prepare them ahead of time by exposing them to loud sounds in a controlled environment.

If you don’t have that luxury, staying calm yourself and providing a safe, comfortable space is the best way to help them weather the storm without much trouble. In severe cases, you can purchase a thunder shirt, which helps some dogs feel safe and significantly reduce anxiety.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay