With the 4th of July just around the corner, many families are preparing everything you need for the perfect celebration, fireworks included. But not all family members are looking forward to the upcoming holiday; many dogs experience serious anxiety from the noise that fireworks create.
Based on current estimates, at least 40% of dogs experience something called noise aversion, or the fear of loud noises. Unfortunately, this fear is not limited to just fireworks as anything from thunderstorms and construction to loud parties and traffic or street noise can trigger it.
For dogs, the fear of noises is a normal adaptive response to a real threat. When they encounter a loud noise, their behavioral and psychological survival instinct kick in and tell them to seek shelter to avoid imminent danger.
Once the dog assesses the situation and determines that the real, or in many cases perceived, danger is gone, they return to their normal doggy behavior. However, this doesn’t happen with all dogs.
When dogs with noise aversion react to fireworks and other loud noises, their behavior and psychological response is much more persistent and exaggerated than other dogs. Often, their behavior shows characteristics similar to an anxiety attack.
With the amount of storms, celebrations, and construction work that takes place during the summer months, it’s no surprise that it can be a stressful season for dogs that are afraid of loud noises. Unfortunately, in many cases, prolonged exposure to these stress-inducing loud noises can result in the worsening or development of other types of anxiety in your pup.
At this point, we’re not quite sure what causes some dogs to be scared of loud noises but we do have a few theories, including lack of exposure, lack of understanding, stress-induced responses, or social transmission.
If your dog does experience anxiety as a result of noise aversion, there are a few things you can do to keep them comfortable this 4th of July and any other time loud noise is expected.
- Prepare for the big day: If your dog experiences significant stress from fireworks, try to slowly expose them to the noise in the days and weeks leading up to the event. Playing videos or CDs with firework sounds can help you slowly introduce your pup to the sound in a safe, controlled environment.
- Don’t coddle them: If your pet is upset, cuddling and soothing them may seem like the best response, but what it really does is encourage their fear. Instead, talk to them and act like normal, showing them that the noise is nothing to be afraid of.
- Keep them inside: If possible, try and keep your dog inside during the celebrations. Keep the windows closed, curtains drawn, and radio or TV on to minimize the noise and flashing lights.
- Play some games: A great way to get your pup’s mind off the loud noises is to play with them. When the fireworks or loud noises begin, bring out their favorite toy and encourage them to play with you.
- Consult your veterinarian: If you’ve tried all of the above tips and your dog is still experiencing significant noise-related anxiety, consult your veterinarian. They may have suggestions for natural or medicinal remedies to help calm your pup’s nerves.
We may not know exactly why some dogs are afraid of fireworks and other loud noises, but we can help minimize the stress. Understanding what triggers your pup’s fear and having solutions in place to help them cope can help minimize their anxiety. Your four-legged friend may never be able to join you and your friends for a night of fireworks, but it doesn’t mean that they need to live in fear of them.