Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Stress & Anxiety

How to Calm Down a Dog During Fireworks Season

A fear of loud noises is common in canines. Here’s how to calm down a dog during fireworks season.

Burgers on the grill, running through the sprinkler, and fireworks—all are hallmarks of summertime, but only two of them are fun for your dog. Yup, the odd one out is a favorite pastime—those booming bright streaks in the sky that go off not only on July 4th, but often on the days before and after our nation’s birthday.

You want to help your dog so she doesn’t get frightened, but it can be a challenge to try and calm a frantic pooch. “Canine hearing is very sensitive to loud noises, and of course, a dog’s nose is better than ours, so your pet will become overwhelmed by the sound and may find the scent of fireworks unpleasant, too,” says Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center.

Add to this the fact that July 4th comes once a year, which means your pet doesn’t have a chance to get used to this sound. “Your dog likely considers fireworks as an unusual, unpredictable event that she can’t control or escape,” she adds.

To learn how to calm down a dog during the 4th of July, here are seven smart tips:

Know what to expect. You may be surprised by the way your dog behaves when she hears the shriek of fireworks, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner. Be prepared for her to whine, run, shake or even scratch at and tear apart a piece of the carpet or a couch cushion, reports Hohenhaus.

Don’t scold. Of course you’d never get truly mad at your own dog, but if your pup continues to dig or yelp because of her fear of loud noises, you might become a little frustrated. “Never yell at an animal because she’s acting this way—she just won’t understand,” reminds Hohenhaus. And if you think you can hug the fear out of your dog, think again. Extra cuddles might be welcomed, but they won’t necessarily help your dog calm down.

Tuck her in tight. A good run outside during the day will help to tucker out your pooch and may induce solid sleep when the loud noises happen at night. You can also set up her sleep space for maximum comfort. This means putting your pup away in her dog crate (if this is her usual place to bed down), closing the drapes to keep light out and adding a little soft music or a white noise machine to play over the fireworks outside.

Try a treat. Ask your vet about giving chews or biscuits that are specially formulated to reduce nervousness and anxiety in dogs. You might shop for VetriScience Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Size Dog Chews or Zuke’s Enhance Calming Peanut Butter Formula Dog Treats. If your fur baby isn’t interested in a nosh, you can distract her with toys.

Consider a new garment. Dog clothing that uses pressure to hold an animal snugly is worth a try. These shirts can be used during the 4th of July, vet visits or car trips to the groomer. A popular option is ThunderShirt Anxiety & Calming Solution. Or you might pick up the Comfort Zone Calming Dog Collar, which reacts to your dog’s body heat to spread relaxing pheromones.

Keep her safe. As Independence Day approaches, have a solid plan in place for your dog. Make sure she’ll be in the house and secure, rather than outside at a BBQ or playing in the backyard. Your pet may become so upset by the sound of fireworks that she could suddenly take off running and get lost.

Prepare for the worst. Despite your best efforts, your puppy might break free and get out of the house during the booming thunder of July 4th. As a pet owner, it’s important to have recent copies of your dog’s picture and to make sure she has all her tags and identification attached to her collar. And if you don’t already have a microchip implanted in your pet, now is a good time to do so.