Dogs and Firecrackers

Have you ever seen a scared pup during fireworks? Their ears are back, body is shaking and they are trying to hide in the bath tub or under the bed. All dog owners are familiar with these signs of a terrified fur baby.

Have you ever thought why it is so that the dogs are scared of loud sounds such as fireworks?

We thought on that and today we will be sharing some scientific knowledge to explain the reason behind the horrified doggy’s behavior. Then towards the end of the newsletter we will be sharing some tips on how to help your baby cope with this situation and how to protect them from any potential harm that the firecrackers can cause.

Science behind this fear:

By understanding this fear of dogs we can help them to improve their lives.

 According to science dogs are gifted by nature to hear more than twice as many frequencies as humans. Plus they can also hear sounds that are nearly four times further away.

Since they cannot react to every sound, they also have the special power of filtering out the sounds. This specialty of dogs is very important especially for the working dogs. Then why does your dog become anxious on certain loud sounds? Well that’s perfectly normal according to Daniel Mills, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Lincoln in England.

Like human babies, puppies also go through very critical development in their early life where they develop certain associations that have a deep impact on their behaviors as adults. If for example a puppy was left alone at home at the time when there were some loud sounds of fireworks from the neighborhood, then he or she can associate fireworks to abandonment. This kind of association can trigger a fear response in a pup whenever they are alone.   

While this might be true for some dogs, there are also cases when dogs who have no negative associations can be seen hiding during loud explosions. The major cause behind this is temperament of the doggie. Now temperament is formed by how genes are affected by the outside world. This can have a huge impact on dog’s reaction to fear, stress and anxiety.

When the dogs experience any external threat such as a loud sound their brains like human brains produces high levels of cortisol which keeps them in “fight or flight” mode.

In several studies scientists have found that age, sex, breed, early exposure to sounds, length of time with owner and reproductive status also have an impact on the response of the doggie towards fear. For example a doggie that is living with the owner who bred them would be less scared of fireworks as opposed to a doggie living with a second owner.

Counter conditioning:

Research suggests that Counter conditioning is one of the best ways to alleviate stress among dogs. It’s like an attempt to stop the fear from developing in the first place. In counter conditioning when the fireworks start the owner hugs the dog, plays with them, offer treats and shows positive and happy emotions. The dogs who receive this kind of treatment are 70 percent less scared of fireworks as opposed to the ones who do not.

By doing this we can gradually help our pup to associate fireworks with something positive rather than something to be scared of.

Top tips to calm your doggie:

If you have a pup who is scared of fireworks then we have gathered some of the tips that can help your fur baby to survive the firecracker seasons.

  1. Try to avoid the timing:

You can take your pup for a walk at a time you are sure no explosions will be heard. Most of the time the fireworks occur at night, so morning walks are your go to trip during new year celebrations.

  1. Create a safe place:

Try to create a safe place for your doggie in your house where they can safely hide if they hear any fireworks. Give one or two options for them to decide. For example a table covered with a table cloth or a crate or a big basket with their favorite blanket.

  1. Muffle or mask the sound:

You can keep your curtain and windows close to muffle the loud bang or explosion and minimize the lights from firecrackers.  Turn on TV or any loud music to mask the sound of fireworks.

  1. Escape proof your house:

Even if it’s not the season of fireworks it’s always a great idea to make sure that your house and garden is escape proof to avoid any incidences.

  1. Give a chewable treat:

Keep chewable treats with you for such situations. Try to find treats that take longer to chew. This can help to keep your doggie distracted from the loud noises and sparkling lights.

  1. Be with them:

Make sure to always stay with your doggie in the same room. Do not leave them alone in any room, as they might hurt themselves in an attempt to escape. If you stay calm and not react to firecrackers much, there is also a slight chance that your pup will adapt that too. Modeling does go a long way.

  1. Consult your vet:

If none of the above mentioned tips work for you and if your doggie shows signs of extreme stress and anxiety and becomes difficult to calm or ease at all then it’s always a good idea to consult your vet. They might recommend some medication or behavioral therapy plans.

Are firecrackers poisonous to dogs?

Unused display fireworks can cause methemoglobinemia, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, and salivation.

If you plan to use firecrackers on any events, make sure to keep them at a place where your dog cannot run into them and consume them accidently.

We as humans enjoy firecrackers but for dogs they can be a source of extreme stress, anxiety and fear.  We must ensure that our fur baby is properly supported and taken care of during this time of trigger for them.

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