The noise of fireworks makes many pets see them as a threat which in turn causes them to become anxious. Not all dogs are the same and, in some dogs, their genetic predisposition can cause them to be sensitive to sounds. Breeds that are commonly sensitive to sounds include German Shepherds, Collies, and Golden Retrievers but other dogs may gradually begin to show signs of sound sensitivity that worsen over time. Examples of loud noises that can cause anxiety in your dog are thunder, fireworks and even the vacuum cleaner.
It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises but some dogs have no problem with the sight and sound of fireworks if they have been desensitised. The most common causes of noise phobia in dogs are fireworks and thunderstorms.
So how can you desensitise your dog to loud noises? To help your dog get used to noises, slowly expose them to low-level noises. Quietly play noises on the radio, TV or phone such as a firework display or thunderstorm. Then slowly increase the noise to the point where your dog isn’t exhibiting fearful behaviours but tolerating the noise. This might take months to achieve but remember to stop the noise if your dog starts to act fearfully. Continue this process until your dog could not care less.
Do not do the following if they are showing signs of fear:
- Don’t cuddle or give treats as this may reinforce the fearful behaviour and you need to behave normally to show your dog has nothing to fear in that situation.
- Never punish your dog for being fearful, this will only make them more fearful. Allow them to behave naturally, so if they hide then let them hide.
- Don’t force your dog to go near the loud noise, allow them to retreat to their safe space.
- Pressure wrap: this is a vest-like garment designed to calm anxious dogs. Pressure is applied to the dog's torso causing a calming effect, similar to swaddling a crying infant. These pressure wraps do not work for every dog.
- Create a safe space for your dog: your dog may have already chosen a place it takes itself to, such as under a table. If this is the case then simply provide a blanket or bed in this space, preferably away from well-walked areas. This now becomes your dog's safe haven. If your dog likes to lie in its crate, leave the door open. If they try to escape with the door closed, they may hurt themselves.
- Try to distract your dog by playing fetch, the longer you can keep them distracted the less uncomfortable they become.