The 4th of July holiday is fast approaching here in the states…

And this…

This is the view from my security cameras last year.

My neighbor sets off fireworks RIGHT next to my fence (we won’t talk about what I think of my neighbor, but let’s just say our relationship has plenty of room for improvement).

Anyhow, every year, I have various dogs hanging at my house.

From client dogs here for training, to rescue dogs from a local organization that I’ve volunteered to help, to my own dogs…

And every year, not one dog panics about fireworks.

In fact, my girl Cuvee (who we lost this year to cancer 😭) had health issues and hormone changes that happened later in life, that transformed her from the world’s most confident dog, to one that was intensely afraid of things like fireworks and thunderstorms…

And she fared just fine during the holiday last year…no medication required.

This year, I’ve got a Gordon Setter with me named Duncan who had past experiences (in his home – not mine) with thunderstorms that scared the you-know-what out of him.

And when the fireworks started yesterday, initially he was afraid….

But I’m not worried about the holiday. (Well, I’m worried about the debris that falls into my goat pens, and near my barn…but not much I can do about that).

I’m not worried about the dogs…

And I’m not worried about their reactions.

Because every year, I’m prepared…and every year, I manage my environment to ensure everyone is comfortable, safe, and stress-free.

If your dog is afraid of fireworks, here are some ideas that might help…

  1. Confine your dog – Giving your dog a safe, comfortable space to retreat to when things get scary will provide them with a sense of security and help to keep them safe, in the event that they panic. Covered crates, or airline style kennels are great options. Be sure to practice crate training in advance of the holiday to build a positive association with being confined.
  2. Elevate dogs that are afraid – When it comes to fireworks or gunfire, feeling the concussion is just as scary, if not more so than the actual sight or sound. By elevating your dog off of the ground, you can prevent them from feeling the concussion, and help them better relax during fireworks. When it comes to dogs that might be apprehensive, I crate them inside of my vehicle and pull it into the barn (don’t ever leave your vehicle running inside! That’s dangerous!) as the tires absorb most of the concussion. You can also simply prop several pillows underneath your dog’s crate or use rubber matting to lessen the sensation when your dog is inside your home.
  3. Confine your dog to an interior space – Keeping dogs away from doors and windows and moving their crate to an interior space, like a bathroom, hallway, or even in a walk in closet can lessen the effect of the fireworks, by reducing the sight and sound of them. Again, get them comfortable with this change well before the holiday.
  4. Keep all the lights ON – Fireworks won’t light up your house, and won’t be as visible if all of the lights are on.
  5. Provide ambient noise – Keeping steady ambient noise can drown out the sound of the fireworks. Keep music playing AND run fans to minimize the sound of the fireworks nearby.
  6. Talk to your vet – If your dog is extremely effected by fireworks, talk to your vet about medication to help them relax this 4th of July holiday. And then, after the holiday passes, get with your trainer about ways to help your dog overcome their fears so that, by next 4th of July, that medication won’t be necessary.

Oh, and I’m sure it goes without saying, but you should consider keeping your dog on leash when outside for potty breaks etc – dogs can bolt easily when spooked, and I always operate from a place of prevention and with a “better to be safe than sorry” attitude – especially when it comes to fireworks and especially when I’m not sure how my dog will react.

How does your dog feel about fireworks?

And if they are apprehensive, what do you do to help them to relax?

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    4 replies to "Getting Prepared: Tips for managing your dog’s firework anxiety"

    • Pauline Davenport

      My border collie is just 8 months old now. It wasn’t fireworks, but last week we had a very light very noisy
      dramatic thunderstorm that lasted all night. Ginny goes to bed in her cage each night , all night and sleeps through till 6am when we start all over again. She is completely ‘blacked out’ at night with a duvet over her cage. It was me that lost sleep listening out for her just in case- but – nothing- she slept through the lot bless her. When she first cam home at 10 weeks old my son and I took it in turns to stay downstairs with her so that she wouldn’t fret, just for a few weeks, the result being that she sleeps on a night and obviously seems to sleep through anything ( not much of a guard dog – lol)

    • Shari

      I have two GSD littermates a male and a female. Their breeder did an awesome job exposing them to kid noises and exposing them to all kinds of sights and sounds. They never had an issue until last year when my neighbor had shot fireworks right over our yard while they were out there. Shortly after now at 5 years old my male began showing some anxiety with fireworks and thunderstorms which was surprising because he is extremely confident. My female started to follow his lead.
      So When Jacob my male started hiding from thunderstorms I saved one of his absolute favorite toys (a flirt pole) that only comes out during thunderstorms and fireworks. He now made the positive association and Ariel my female went back to following his lead in the right direction. I do a few obedience commands with her shower her with praise give her a few treats and she is calm and wagging her tail in minutes. The key is start right away before the anxiety really starts building so it’s important to read your dog because they get anxious and sense storms coming way before the thunder and lightening happens. Thank you for this article, a lot of dogs and their families struggle with this issue

    • Nancy Gendron Hofmann

      Thank you for posting this! I’m beginning to get the impression from some dog folks that I’m appallingly ignorant & insensitive for admitting that I enjoy fireworks & thunderstorms. Mentioning how I’ve taught my dogs to not mind fireworks (natural or man made) just earns me incredulous looks.

      My folks had an all-round lovely (obedience trial high scores, therapy dog, etc.) mastiff who would eat the woodwork & doors during thunderstorms. Local eateries were accustomed to boxing their dinner if a mid-western storm popped up so they could race home to prevent his terror-driven destruction. Vowed I’d *never* have a dog that couldn’t at least calmly tolerate storms & fireworks — which I truly love! My go-to is Redi-Whip straight from the can. The ultimate in high-value, super-special, reward that even trembling puppies have eventually fallen for. My most reluctant was a boxer who was certain I’d lost it with all the happy talk, prancing around, & invitations to chase me for a squirt of whip cream. Several times he looked toward his whippet big brother, seemingly, for advice. Whippet’s expression struck me as, “Yeah, Mom’s nuts, but you might as well get over it & eat that whipped cream so I can have some, too.” Admit that it has taken some doing, but so far I’m 5 for 5. I know someone else who uses ice cream with equally successful results.

    • Ginny Burger

      We’ve never had dogs that were afraid of fireworks. Living out in the country, many people set them off for the holiday and usually a few days before and after. When we did have neighbors that set them off (thankfully very responsible neighbors! And fireworks are legal here) we would go outside with the dogs, sit in their yard with them and watch the show. The dogs were fine with it! The only one who had a problem just got mad at the fireworks that whistled. She’d fuss at them, but that was it. So, for us, going outside with the dogs into their secure yard and hanging out to watch the fireworks was our answer. The dogs didn’t care about the booms, bangs and flashing, and our neighbors provided us with a free show and no crowds!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.