How do you calm a dog when it's afraid of fireworks?

Short term Quick Fixes:

-Play! Depending on your dog's level of anxiety (pacing vs. curled up trembling) simply distracting him may be the best course of action. Play, sing songs, exercise the dog as much as you can to try and wear it out. Help your dog associate thunder with a fabulous playtime!

-Crate your dog or move their bedding into a enclosed space like a closet. A dog who feels "safe" will be less anxious, and a "den" is the instinctual place for a dog to feel safe. It may help to cover your dog's crate with a blanket or sheet to create a den feeling.

-Create as much white noise as you can. Fans, TV's, radios, etc. Try to drown out the majority of the sound.

-Find a T-shirt that fits the dogs chest tightly and put it on them. No one knows why this helps, but many owners swear this makes a difference.

-Over the counter sedatives (Like rescue remedy) or veterinary prescriptions like Ace or Valium are a good short term treatment- although not available in an emergency. If your dog is severely anxious, try to keep a stash on hand.

- Short term and long term, one of the most important things for an owner to do is not to coddle the dog. Cooing and petting are both"rewarding" actions for a dog- they are used as rewards in training- so what are you training your dog to do when you respond to his anxiety with petting and cooing?

Rather than babying your scared dog, try:

  • singing a silly song
  • sqeaking toys
  • taking the time to run the dog through his or her tricks.
  • yawning repeatedly (really). make big, loud, exaggerated yawns- your dog will see your relaxation and respond.

Long Term Solutions

Long term solutions to storm and firework anxiety revolve around retraining your dog to associate loud noises with good things.

For dogs scared of "bangs", check out Dale Burrier's article, "The Paper Bag Game - Desensitizing Your Dog to Loud Noises"

For other anxieties, try desensitization CDs. You can by CDs that contain all the common sounds that dogs are afraid of. You can begin playing these CDs at a barely audible level at meal times, play times, and all the "happiest" times of the day. Over the course of weeks you can turn the volume up and after several months your dog should respond to the sound thunder or fireworks with interest or even excitment.