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9 effective ways to keep your dogs calm during fireworks, according to vets

Ashley Laderer,Sorin McKnight   

9 effective ways to keep your dogs calm during fireworks, according to vets
  • To keep your dog calm during scary situations, like fireworks, try putting them in a Thundershirt.
  • You should also take your dog to the most sound-insulated place in your home and comfort them.

If your dog gets scared of loud noises, they aren't alone. Around half of dog owners in a 2013 study reported that their dog showed at least one sign of fear when exposed to loud noises. Some common tell-tale signs of fear in dogs include shaking, whining, hiding, or having accidents.

If your dog is showing signs that they're afraid, or you know they'll be exposed to a trigger that makes them scared (like fireworks or thunder), there are many things you can do to help them feel more comfortable.

Here are nine ways to keep your dogs calm during a scary situation.

1. Stay by their side

Just being with your dog can be soothing to them. "Your calming words and companionship can be a source of comfort, along with playing with them and giving them treats and their favorite toys to distract them," says Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, a veterinary medical advisor for Rover.

Being near your dog is particularly important if it's their first experience with something that could be scary, like fireworks, says Greenstein. This is because you don't know how they will react to them and if there's the risk of them running off.

2. Create a comfortable hiding spot

Some dogs tend to hide when they're scared, so they look for an enclosed hiding spot such as the bathtub or the space beneath your bed.

If you find them like this, let them be. "Don't try to extract them from their hiding spot. If they feel safe there, then let them feel safe there," says Dr. Dennis Leon, the founder and medical director of Viva Pet Care.

What you can do is make the hiding spot as comfortable as possible for them, providing them with blankets and toys, for example.

3. Drown out the noise

You can mask the sound of fireworks by playing other noises to distract your dog. Greenstein recommends:

This is a great, easy way to shield fearful pets from potentially scary, sudden sounds, says Greenstein. However, since dogs' ears are more sensitive than ours and they can hear more than we can, this isn't necessarily foolproof, but it can help.

4. Move to a sound-insulated area

You'll definitely want to keep your dog safe inside during scary instances, but you can take this up a level by keeping activities to a more sound-insulated area of the home, like the basement, says Greenstein.

If you don't have a basement, just be sure to keep your windows closed to muffle the sound as much as possible, while also putting on some white noise, music, or TV to help, too.

5. Use pheromones

Pheromones are naturally-produced chemicals dogs release for numerous reasons like finding a mate or bonding with their babies. However, you can purchase synthetic pheromones in pet stores or online that mimic the ones that mother dogs naturally release when their babies are young and nursing, says Leon.

These pheromones have a calming effect on dogs since it biologically reminds them of being a puppy safe with their mother. Leon says one of the most common and reputable brands is Adaptil. Another one you may find is NaturVet.

You can get these synthetic pheromones in various forms including:

6. Put them in a Thundershirt

Thundershirts or thunder jackets help some dogs. This is essentially a vest that is put on tightly so it applies pressure to the dog's body.

"Their snug fit can provide a source of calm and comfort, similar to a weighted blanket in people," Greenstein says.

Make sure you have it on tight enough so that it actually provides relief. If it's too loose, the desired effect won't happen.

7. Give them supplements/natural remedies

Some natural over-the-counter supplements may help your dog relax. Some examples are:

  • L-theanine
  • L-tryptophan
  • Casein

Supplement blends are available, too. Leon says a product trusted by veterinarians is Composure Pro.

CBD has also become increasingly popular for dogs with anxiety, says Leon. However, he recommends checking with your vet for dosing instructions. Don't offer your dog a CBD product you bought for yourself or another human and assume the dosing would be the same for them.

You should only give your dog supplements under the guidance of your vet. Leon says your vet can ensure there are no contraindications, including harmful interactions with other medications your pet is on.

8. Give them prescription medications

If your dog's anxiety is severe and they have a history of intense fear in scary situations, talk to your vet about prescription medications.

Note: If you know that your dog has a serious aversion to something like fireworks, make sure you speak to your vet about getting prescription medications well before a holiday like the Fourth of July. This will allow enough time for you to get the medication your dog needs.

Leon says some commonly prescribed drugs are:

  • Alprazolam
  • Clonidine
  • Gabapentin
  • Trazodone

9. Desensitization and counterconditioning

While this isn't a quick fix for the heat-of-the-moment fear, desensitization can help your dog be less afraid of scary situations long-term.

Desensitization is essentially exposure therapy for dogs. Leon says during non-scary situations, you can play YouTube videos that have firework sounds, for example. Start with playing it at a low volume. Over time, increase the volume to slowly expose your dog more and more.

Do this while you play with your dog and give them treats so they become more desensitized to the sounds and eventually associate the sounds with positive feelings and rewards.

Insider's takeaway

No pet parent wants to see their pet suffer when they're feeling afraid. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to make your pup feel safer and more comfortable in scary situations, ranging from simply showing them some love, to using synthetic pheromones, to giving them prescription medications. Don't hesitate to ask your veterinarian for guidance along the way.


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