Dogs, Fireworks, and Other Loud Noises: 15 Effective Tips To Calm A Dog Down
Updated: December 21, 2021
Why Do Dogs Hate Fireworks and Other Loud Noises?
Dogs have incredible hearing and can detect many sounds that humans cannot. In fact, in some instances, your dog’s hearing can be 100 times more sensitive than yours. So normal, every day sounds like the vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, power drill, or hammer are much louder to your pup’s sensitive ears than you might imagine. That’s why really loud noises like balloons popping, fireworks, thunder, or cars that backfire can send your puppy into a panic.
More dogs go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year!
For dogs who are super sound sensitive, even the littlest noises can set them off or scare them.
When this happens, your puppy will likely get a bit disoriented, causing their fight-or-flight response to kick into high gear. If your puppy is safely inside your house, he’ll likely run and hide.
But loud, scary noises that occur when your pup is outside going potty or near an open door can make an otherwise obedient dog run away from home. That’s why I recommend that all my puppy parents have their pups microchipped so your puppy can be returned to you as quickly as possible if he/she ever gets lost or runs away.
What To Do If Your Dog Gets Scared By Fireworks And Other Loud Noises
It's important to recognize your dog's fear and help them through it by counter-conditioning or desensitizing them to the things they are afraid of.
You won't be able to verbally reassure them that “everything is ok,” as you would comfort your child, but you can help them make a positive association with those scary sounds and objects that make them fearful.
If You’re Already In A Situation With A Scared Pup
In the off chance you get “blind-sided,” or surprised by an unexpected loud noise without any treats, or your pup is already stressed, you need to get out of dodge or leave the situation immediately.
Do not make a big deal about leaving. Leave as calmly as possible. Then, in the next training session, go back a few steps in the training process so you can resume making positive associations with those scary noises and objects.
How To Prepare Your Pup For Loud Noises
You can help your puppy be brave and confident in these situations instead of running in fear by preparing him ahead of time by following these tips.
1. Make a list of the sounds and objects you know your puppy is afraid of and other similar sounds you anticipate your puppy will commonly or periodically be exposed to. For example, if you live in a large city where there’s lots of traffic and sirens and cars backfiring, your list might include sirens, honking horns, loud motorcycles, and fireworks (which sound very similar to cars backfiring). It can also include kids on skateboards or roller skates.
2. Make a list of things your dog loves, as you can use these things as positive reinforcements during training sessions. Food is the most common reinforcement, but play, access to something they want (such as a favorite toy or a cherished spot on the couch next to you), and verbal praise are other options too.
3. Limit your pup’s exposure to these scary noises – as much as possible – while the training lessons progress. You only want them exposed to these noises during training so you can control the level and duration of exposure, so your puppy doesn’t get overwhelmed.
If your dog gets scared while you're trying to work through these lessons, it may cause a setback.
4. Over the course of several training sessions, gradually desensitize your puppy to the scary noises and objects. Here’s how to do this:
- Present the scary noise at its lowest level using a CD or YouTube video
- In the presence of the noise, deliver the positive reinforcement (treat, toy, or verbal praise)
- It’s important that you remain in control of the level and duration of the noise at all times during the training. For this reason, we use YouTube videos, CDs, or set up training scenarios where you can control the outcome.
- When you stop the sound, the positive reinforcement stops. This signals to your puppy that the training session is over.
- As training sessions progress, slowly increase the volume of the noise. Remember to go slowly, at your dog’s pace, so your pup doesn’t get scared. This is not the kind of training you want to rush through.
In this way, you teach your pup ahead of time that loud noises mean good things are going to happen!
5. You can also play the “find it” game while the fireworks CD or YouTube videos are playing. This means you can hide treats around the house ahead of time and encourage your dog to “find it” while the scary noises are playing.
6. Condition your pup to wear a ThundershirtⓇ in case they don’t handle the sound of fireworks going off very well. The ThundershirtⓇ is a type of compression shirt for dogs that helps calm them down when they are anxious or nervous.
Conditioning means you will gradually help your dog get used to wearing the ThundershirtⓇ over the course of several training sessions. Here’s how:
- Put the shirt on your dog, give them a reward, and immediately take it off for the first few training sessions.
- Slowly increase the amount of time your pup wears the shirt over the course of several training sessions.
Many dogs take to wearing this compression shirt almost instantly as it really is calming to them.
7. Make sure your pup’s ID tag is on their collar in case they accidentally escape. Also, make sure your pup’s microchip is up to date. They may escape out of fear, and you want to make sure they will be returned to you ASAP!
8. Make sure to take a current photo of your pup in case you have to report them as missing, you’ll have a current photo to share with local shelter groups and on your social media accounts.
9. Make sure to leave your pup at home if you’re going out to watch the fireworks, as this really is an overwhelming time for most dogs!
How To Calm A Dog Down
If your pup already has a fear of fireworks (or other loud noises), you can manage the experience by following these tips:
1. Exercise your dog thoroughly throughout the day so that they will have less anxious nervous energy to expel during the evening fireworks show.
2. Use food dispensing toys or puppy puzzle toys to engage your pup and keep them occupied with positive activities while the scary noises happen outside.
3. Play calming music at a volume your pup can tolerate to help soothe your frantic furry friend. You can find calming music on YouTube.
4. Keep your pup in a crate in the most soundproof room in your house, for most people, this is in the basement. Make sure to give your pup a busy toy like a frozen filled KongⓇ while they are in their crate. And avoid locking them in the crate, as this can create more anxiety.
5. Try using CBD oil or even DAP (dog-appeasing pheromones) to help calm your pup.
Once the festivities are over, make sure to check your yard for any debris that may have landed in your area. Many times fireworks end up going further than anticipated or in the wrong direction and end up in people’s yards. Check your yard before sending your pup out so your pup can avoid being burned or accidental ingestion of fireworks debris.
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Tell me in the comments below, is your pup afraid of loud scary noises like fireworks or thunder?
About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.