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Fireworks and Dogs

4019 Views 23 Replies 21 Participants Last post by  artisgsd
I volunteer with a few GSD and all breed rescues, mainly Noble Shepherd Rescue. I wrote this up for our volunteers and my rescue contacts, and wanted to post on the board as well.

Fireworks and Dogs Just Don’t Mix

July 4th is right around the corner so we wanted to remind everyone to make sure to keep their furry companions safe and secure. July 5th is the busiest day for animal control agencies across the United States because many dogs get loose, run away, etc… Sheer terror would be a good way to describe the way many dogs react to fireworks. Many dogs are also killed every year due to fireworks as well or rather due to irresponsible humans.

Some dogs get so stressed out that they can develop behavioral issues for days, even weeks after the festivities.

We also can not forget that a dogs’ sense of hearing is significantly stronger than ours. The loud noise from fireworks can hurt their ears as well as terrify them.

Signs that your dog is stressed:

- trembling
- restlessness
- destructiveness
- hiding
- pacing
- panting
- attention seeking
- shaking
- escape behavior
- loss of house training
- whining
- barking

Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine says, ``Typically, the very severe reaction occurs when they are alone. ``

`` If they are alone they already feel terrible. If, in the midst of their misery, comes their worst nightmare, firecrackers or a thunderstorm, and you're a dog of this persuasion, a shrinking violet, you can get so distraught you will try to escape. You're not running to something, you're running from something. ``

Dogs can break teeth, he said, trying to escape a crate.

`` Once they're out they may try to excavate their way out of the house,'' he said, `` by throwing themselves out of a window, tearing through a fly screen and running down the road in the town. Sometimes they're hit by a car, sometimes they're lost.''

Below are some tips we gather to share with you. Please keep your dogs indoors and safe.

<span style="color: #FF0000">* Make sure all pets always are wearing well-fitted collars and securely fastened ID tags. Microchips and tattoos are great ID techniques, too. Even a back-firing car or shot in the woods can be enough to incite a dog to run off, so avoid taking any chances.</span>

Never walk your dog while fireworks are being let off.
Keep your dog indoors; close the curtains and play music or turn on the television to drown out the noise.

Consider making a den with old blankets for your dog to hide away.
Ensure you are not enforcing your dogs nervous state by giving attention to its behavior…allow the dog to settle where it finds a secure place.

To further minimize distress; you can use a Dog Appeasing Pheromone. It is a synthetic version of a chemical produced by the mother shortly after she has given birth. The pheromone reassures newborn puppies and naturally calms them down. Scientists have discovered it also helps calm older dogs as well for a wide range of anxiety related behavior.

You can combine a DAP diffuser with a CD that you can use to gradually desensitize your dog to typical firework noises. This usually takes a few weeks to see a marked improvement; and is best carried out well in advance for optimum results.

A herbal remedy known as Scullcap & Valerian can also aid calming your dog; as can Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

If your dog is particularly prone to becoming very distressed; discuss sedatives with your vet; but do try the above first; as it is a drug free approach aimed at removing the root of the problem.
Nick Jones MCFBA
Dog Behavior Specialist and Trainer

<span style='font-size: 14pt'><span style="color: #FF0000">DO NOT:</span></span>

- Let your dog go outside when fireworks are sounding, even if he shows no signs of stress.

- Exercise or walk him when fireworks are likely.

- Punish your dog for being frightened.

- Leave him alone during the firework period.

- Fuss or try and reassure your dog when he is frightened, as this rewards the fear behavior and will encourage him to repeat it.

- Take your dog to a firework display.

Links to articles related to this subject:


Thank you.
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Thanks for the post. I just wanted to add that a few years ago my little girl was so stressed about the fireworks that I went to the vet and got sedatives for her. This was a disaster. On top of being terrified she felt she couldn't move to get away from the noise. I had never been so upset with myself as I was for doing this to her. It was just awful watching her struggling to go from room to room, scared to death of the noise and then having her body not working for her the way she wanted. This was just my experience but I wanted others to know they too could experience this. I'll never do it again.
You might also want to see my post below labeled Not abused. I'm thinking fireworks might have a lot to do with whats going on with her now.
Very interesting post.

I guess I have an unusual dog in that she could care less about fireworks, gun shots, storms, or any of that, and quite frequently is around both fireworks and gunshots.
mikko is the same way- he actually seems to like fireworks. we take him to see them and he watches them in the sky. the one year we watched them from the top of a parking garage and the whole building was trembling from the noise and he just sat there watching the fireworks. same with gunshots and thunderstorms, which is a good thing in florida since its been thundering here every day.

it is really sad though, the day after 4th of july here, there are so many lost dog signs
Fireworks are for the most part outdated. How patriotic is it to purchase fireworks from a fireworks stand that made the fireworks in Communist China?

I don't get sending my hard earned cash to Communist China.

Some of the events held by municipalities use homemade (USA) fireworks.

I'm keeping the boys in the house during all the excitement as I do on New Years Eve also. Glad you brought this up. Could be saving a pet.
I'd recommend puppy owners make a point to intentionally expose their pups to the sight/sound/smell of fireworks on the Fourth. It is a socialization opportunity like any other. Fireworks are a part of life in many places, and most dogs will not be aware (or care) if the shells are made in the U.S.A. or imported. That seems like a different point entirely.

Why not set your dog up to succeed in life by conditioning him to accept things that there is no reason to fear, fireworks included?

Young pups will accept most anything, as long as they are exposed in a positive, non-coddling way, and given positive reinforcement to be calm.

I'll be enjoying a fireworks show next weekend with my pack.
Thank you for the article! I also have one of those "Wow, AWESOME fireworks, Mom!!" kinda dogs. But, growing up one female dog we had was always a basket case on July 4th. We did everything wrong!

Here in Germany, they have New Year's Eve with fireworks for the entire evening, and you are surrounded by them. A flaming 3 ft long rocket landed, hissing, about 2 meters from us, on the lawn. Grimm was like, "YESSSS!! Let's go up close Ma, and see what it'll do next!!" Uh,NO.

A local SV here has reported a dog missing, lost due to fear of the fireworks. Definitely I second having collar and ID on dogs when fireworks will be happening.

Most of all, Tracy is right-- fireworks need to seem samel ole, same ole to our dogs. Get them accustomed to it, and to seeing you and other dogs RELAXING around fireworks displays!
Thanks to the person that provided the original post.

Like you Historian, I have a dog that could care less about fireworks, gun shots and all that stuff. He is an European GS working dog. Once the fireworks start the dog wants to go outside and see what is going on.

On the other hand I have a rescue that hides the minute a storm starts.
I make an effort to teach my dogs that loud noises (fireworks, thunderstorms, etc.) are paired with lots of play, treats, etc. - I want them to think that these things are FUN and not to be feared.

So I do take mine out during the fireworks or when there's thunder (which is actually rare here in Alaska). And then I clap my hands and laugh and play with them every time an explosion happens. I toss yummy treats and tussle their ears and scratch their rumps while the noises are going on. And every dog I've had has been 100% okay with loud noises like this.

When they had the holiday fireworks here (which they have the Friday after Thanksgiving during our very dark time of year), I took Tazer out (she was five months old) and we played and had a good time while the fireworks were exploding above her head. She was MUCH more interested in going to visit the people than she was in the noises! And Khana went to her first firework display at the age of 8.5 weeks old. She was rooting through the snow looking for treats and paid very little attention to the noise - and has retained that calmness about noises.

So I think that, done right, you can do a lot to help your dogs understand and view these loud noises as normal and maybe even fun (when you pair them with treats and play). But if you do have a dog that is fearful already, managing the situation to diminish the fear is really important. I've known dogs that chewed through walls because they were so afraid. With dogs like this you really do have to make an effort to help them through the fear. But the easiest way, if you have a young dog, is to teach them that there's nothing to fear and then the problem manages itself.

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
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Just one word of caution as Melanie pointed out, Exposing a sound sensitive pup to fireworks can do more harm to the pup than good. If you pup is stressed, then get either back home or inside and try doing some play distraction games.
With my dog, I am not so sure. If I had gotten her as a pup she would be treated differently. But I adopted her a a 5 1/2 year old reascue, who was labelled as aggressive, but quite the contrary is shy, and has never even growled.

She also seems aloof, but fearful. So any training is very much NILIF, and also very gentle. This is one I have had to move along very slowly. For example, just to get her to play, retrieve, and obey sinmple commands is my initial goal.

The fireworks, and we have plenty, just acare the heck out of her, so if she wants tio hide under the bed, or lay by me that is fine.

My other GSD, was adopted by a pup, and immediately accepted gunshots, fireworks, etc. with no problem.

The fear of fireworks, thunder storms, etc. is secondary for now.
We will be enjoying fireworks ourselves. Maybe later I'll be Mrs Heaton in the street with a cigarette lighter. It is a large part of life around here.

I allow my dogs to do almost anything they want when fireworks are going off. They could hide under the bed or in the bathroom for all I care. They just aren't allowed to be outside the fence when it's going off. Morgan for her own safety, she'd try to bite it.

When stuff started exploding last night, Morgan walked into my office, cocked her head at me like 'hey get off that computer, lets go watch the booms'

For anyone who hasn't seen this old picture, that's my Rex running along the finale. I used to date a phyrotech, the only time Rex cared about it was when hot ash started falling on my x.

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Great posts.

I use Fourth of July Fireworks as a great training distraction. Since they were puppies, they have gone to the Fireworks displays (huge city sponsored events), done down and sit stays; practiced heeling; and played, played, played. I really think that it is because of this that they don't have noise sensitivity issues. They are comfortable being by trains (not terribly close - that would bother ME *LOL*), hearing gun shots, thunder, and military related booms etc.
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I have three dogs and have to treat each differently. My GSD, Heidi, has always been scared to death of sudden loud noises. I would love to condition her, but I think that is just how she's made. She may go to the picnic earlier in the day, but when it comes fireworks time, Heidi will be at home, with the windows closed, air conditioning on and probably will have had her valeria root to help her be calm.

Loki, chocolate lab, is a hunting dog, is used to gunshot; it doesn't faze him. I took Cori, black lab, out to watch fireworks last year when she was just a little pup, so she would get used to them and she pretty much ignored them.
Well its now july 1. Sarge already doesnt want to go and potty. Its goinna be a long week.
I'm sorry Sarge has such a miserable time with the holidays.
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I have never had a GSD that cared at all about fireworks. Zeus was only 7 weeks old (yes, way too young to be away from his litter) on his first fourth of July and he relaxed and watched fireworks with me. Thinking back on many things about that dog, I realize how incredibly lucky I got with him. My current two are fine unless something sounds like the crack of a whip. Then they are trying to find the person they get to bite!
We get to play the guessing game! Apollo and Zeus have done so well with thunderstorms, they don't even notice them. Sometimes I think they sleep through stormy night better then I do! lol. However, I do know that fireworks are a lot louder than thunderstorms, so here's to hoping! My last boy was terribly afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks. Hopefully this year will be enjoyable with the boys.
Originally Posted By: HistorianI'm sorry Sarge has such a miserable time with the holidays.
I think it goes back to his puppy days. He was tied to a tree in a backyard without any shelter. So he had to deal with thunder and lightning all by himself. When it storms he practically sitting on my lap.
Jenn that's an awesome pic! One of my best friend's husband does fireworks, but it's all computerized now he says. He's done the St. Louis fireworks but they are in Europe for the summer so I he's not doing any shows.

I'm going downtown and plan to take Kenya along. She did fine under gun fire and has never been a problem in crowds. We're going to go early with some drinks and get a really good spot so we won't be too crowded. Our city has a river downtown and they close the road bridges for fireworks. Everyone goes and sits on the bridges or along the river.
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