Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?

May 11, 2019
Fireworks are common throughout the year in all kinds of celebrations, but particularly on the 4th of July. Many dogs are afraid of the sound of fireworks and try to hide and seek refuge anywhere they can.

The 4th of July is approaching fast, and, with it, the awesome fireworks. However, there are some who dread the day. One example is John. His dog is afraid of fireworks, and ran away, quite disoriented, and strayed from home for a few days during last year’s celebration. So, in this article, we’d like to tell you some things you should keep in mind if you ever have to calm your dog down.

Those of us who have pets at home know that dogs are afraid of the sound of certain things. It may be thunder, a huge storm, fireworks, motorcycles, etc. Pretty much anything that roars or rumbles or thunders will lead to a change in some animal’s behavior.

We need to try to understand why they may hide under the bed or in the bathroom. Or why they take a huge leap and land on your lap –and scratch you with their lovely claws in so doing.

You may not know this, but, in a dog’s natural environment, loud sounds are a sign of danger. As such, they genetically predispose their instinctive brain to flee and protect themselves.

Regardless of them being born and raised in a city and domesticated, dogs still instinctively protect themselves as soon as they hear something loud.

Afraid of the sound of fireworks: phonophobia

Phonophobia (the fear of loud noises) is acquired gradually and may have its roots in several factors. It isn’t unusual for a dog to be afraid of loud sounds. There are many people who are also startled by them. However, the problem with animals is often how their humans react when confronted with these noises.

There are two things that may trigger phonophobia:

  • Genetics: Some breeds are more timid, fearful or sensitive than others.
  • Deficient training: A dog may learn from its owner’s fear and deduce that something is wrong.

Beyond their instinct to flee, the main risk when a dog is afraid of the sound of firecrackers is their subsequent desire to destroy things or to escape. In the first instance, they may break everything in their path. In the second, they’ll become disoriented and even run away from home.

How to keep your dog from being afraid of fireworks

A woman petting a dog.

As many as 3 out of 10 dogs experience phonophobia, and here are some tips that can help you:

Create a safety area

This area is for the dog to hide during events with loud sounds. The shelter must be small and as dark as possible, cave-like. A cardboard box could be used for this purpose, and also a carrier. Some people keep their dogs inside the bathroom with the lights off.

It’s important that the dog is able to move freely throughout this safety area. Make sure the door isn’t closed completely, so that they don’t get too stressed or think they’re grounded.

Inside this enclosure, place their bed or favorite blanket so that they’ll feel comfortable near one of their favorite objects. If the shelter is easy to transport, then place it in a quiet spot of your house – as far away as possible from the street or the loud event. The most interior room is your best option.

Remain calm

A dog on a bed looking scared.

You should know that if the dog perceives that you are calm, then they’ll most likely be calm too. However, if you become agitated, then they’ll think that there’s something wrong and become even more nervous and scared. Don’t scold them and don’t shout when they’re hiding. Keep in mind that the animal is acting on instinct. It’s as simple as that.

Also, don’t change your attitude or start pacing around the house. And try not to shout or act in a way that may lead them to believe you’re in danger. Just continue as you would if there were no thunder or rumbles.

Play with your dog

A good way to divert your dog’s attention away from stormy nights or other loud events is to spend time with them and not focus on the rumbling. For example, you can throw a ball or a stick.

Another option is to give them a toy with a different sound or hide something they really, really like. This may make them connect the oh-so-scary rumbling to something positive like a game and they won’t be afraid anymore.