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Dog Training Tips: How to Help Your Dog Overcome the Fear of Fireworks

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Dogs who are scared of fireworks–as well as thunder, gun shots, or other loud noises–is a topic that I am passionate about. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing animals in fear, especially dogs.

For those of you that own dogs with a true fear of loud noises, you may feel overwhelmed when challenging dog behaviours–such as peeing in the house, shaking, running away, or hiding under furniture–occur.

These sense of frustration, overwhelm, and the feeling of helplessness arise for two reasons…

  1. You do not understand why your dog is behaving in such a way.
  2. You can’t figure out what you need to do to help your dog.

Here’s the good news…

All the undesirable behaviors that come with a fear of loud noises are simply signs of a dog that is stressed. And these unwanted behaviors can be stopped without force, fear or aggression when you have the right tools to help your dog.

I’m going to share with you some tools to help your dog cope with his or her fear of fireworks and other loud noises. But first, let’s tap into the psychology of why dogs get so scared so that you know where your dog is coming from.

Why Dogs Fear Fireworks

If your dog acts like a “scaredy cat” when loud noises are present, he’s not overreacting or being a weenie. It’s actually natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises.

Loud noises trigger dogs’ nervous systems, which cause them to feel anxious or afraid. This trigger is a survival instinct that’s deeply embedded in a lot of dogs. This survival instinct is what causes your dog to run from the noise or seek shelter under a bed.

Even the most well behaved dog can forget his training when he feels his life could be threatened.

For example, you may have a dog that walks beautifully off the leash. He knows how to not wander away, how not to chase birds or squirrels, and how to cross the road with you. However, you may be outside walking one day and hear a clash of thunder. Before you know it, your dog is nowhere in sight.

This isn’t your dog being naughty.

Your dog ran in an effort to protect himself. In fact, he’s probably looking back trying to find where his human went and is wondering why you didn’t run for your safety as well.

Because this is such a deeply embedded trait in many dogs, it can be challenging to stop unwanted dog behaviors that arise due to loud noises. There are, however, many things you can do to help decrease your dog’s stress levels so naughty behaviours don’t occur.

How to Help Your Dog Cope with Fireworks (And Other Loud Noises)

The biggest key to helping your dog stay relaxed during fireworks is to be prepared.

Try out the following tips…

  1. Take your dog out for a walk early on so that he is relaxed and tired before the fireworks start up.
  2. Close all the curtains as the visual stimulation of the fireworks is just one of the things that can make fear worse for your dog.
  3. Turn up the TV, music or radio. This simply deafens the sound so your dog will hear less of the noise.
  4. Close the doors to the rest of the house so your dog is unable to charge around and become more stressed. (Unless you feel that their “safe place” is in another room in which case you may want to leave the door open).
  5. Be ready for an evening in. Maybe pour yourself a glass of wine and have a good book or movie ready. If you have a very stressed dog, then you will most likely feel you need to be with her.
  6. If you are leaving your dog alone, then be aware that it can be very stressful for them and leaving them outside can be scary.
  7. Prepare your dog a nice safe place that he can go to rest if he wants to relax. Do not try to force him. Dogs with no clear bed will often pace around much more than ones with an obvious bed to go to. Many dogs will love a simple den shaped cardboard box with a soft blanket inside, it does not have to be flashy.
  8. Invest in a training program, such as The Dog Calming Code, that will teach you how to get your dog to relax and calm down.

Use The Calm Freeze

The calm freeze is a very simple but very powerful technique that I use in many situations for calming dogs down. It can be used at the park if they are getting over excited, if they are barking at something and you wish them to stop or in this case when you want to show them another way to behave.

The secret is to show your dog that it’s ok to relax with your actions rather than your words.

Remember the saying “It’s not what you do, but the way that you do it?” So, whatever you do, do it calmly!

Here is the simple summary of the steps to managing fireworks and dog anxiety using the calm freeze.

  1. Take your dog under the collar using an underhand grip, so your palm should be facing upwards to the sky.
  2. Hold them as gently as possible. You may only need one finger. It is best if you can find a seat that you are comfy on as it may take a while.
  3. Stay very calm yourself. Focus on anything other than your dog or the fireworks. Think about the movie, a magazine, friends or your next holiday.
  4. Ignore your dear lovely dog. No speaking to him, touching him or looking at him. This part is crucial.
  5. Eventually, your dog will sit, but keep hold of them gently under the collar.
  6. It’s now time for you to transfer your calm energy by BEING CALM. No words are necessary at this point.
  7. Eventually your dog will lie down, keep hold of him for a while until he is settled and relaxed.
  8. When he is really relaxed, you can let go of him.
  9. If your dog seems calm and wants to go to his bed, let him go.

For additional information on the calm freeze, check out my video below!

Dogs scared of fireworks

Monitor Your Own Energy

It’s amazing how quickly dogs pick up on our energies.

If your dog feels that you’re worried or stressed out, he’s going to feel the same way. Monitor energy in the following ways…

  • Make sure that you are relaxed and are focusing on something else other than your dog or the fireworks.
  • If have your dog on a leash or are physically carrying him, check that your hold your dog’s collar as loose as possible.
  • Encourage others in the house to act as calm as possible with as little screaming, shouting and running as possible!

The two biggest mistakes people make is that when the first few fireworks go off is that they look at their dogs to see the reaction, and then dog looks at them to see if there is a problem and the spiral begins.

The other mistake is that people will try to comfort their nervous or fearful dog who comes up to them wanting a cuddle. Patting them and stroking them and talking to them in your nervous “It’s okay, baby” sort of voice will only make it worse.

If they are only a little unsure, just move them off you gently and ignore them (make sure they know where their nice safe bed is). If they become really scared, then perform the calm freeze.

Become the Pack Leader

Dogs are pack animals, and the more your dog respects you and trusts your decisions as the leader of their pack, then the more he will watch your behavior and follow suit.

A great example of this is if you are in another country where you don’t understand what’s going on and a strange noise sounds up in the distance. You may be a bit scared;however, if you are with somebody whom you trust (they care about you), and respect (they know more about the situation than you) and they explain that it’s nothing to worry about, you can relax.
Dogs who are fearful, scared and worried need strong pack leaders whom they can trust to keep them safe.

Having worked with thousands of dogs over the past decade I have found this to be the single most powerful thing dog owners can do to help their dogs.

Then, if you remain calm they’ll simply look at you and calm down. It has an impact in every area of their life and allows them to relax, switch off and relax.

Treating the cause of the problem

Other tools such as herbal drops, drugs from the vet and body wraps may also assist in calming down your dog. However, they do not address the real cause of the problem–instead they treat only the symptoms.

For a long term, drug-free solution that deals with the cause of the problem regarding the fear of fireworks, thunder and much more, I suggest you check out how I’ve helped over 37,000 stay calm and relax with my Dog Calming Code program.

Or, if you have a puppy I suggest you begin with my Puppy Coach training program that will help prevent your pup from developing a fear of loud noises.

Do you have any other tricks that help your dog when fireworks or other loud noises are around? I’d love to hear your solutions!

Please share how you calm your dog in the comments below… Thanks!

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~Doggy Dan 🙂

Doggy Dan

Doggy Dan is the founder of The Online Dog Trainer, a wildly successful online training program for dog owners. His goal is to continue to share his unique approach to dog training with like-minded people who wish to make a difference in the world of dogs. His training methods focus on creating and building the connection between dogs and dog owners, and are shared and used around the world.

21 Responses

    1. Hi Ray,
      The easiest way to stop a dog from jumping up on counters or kitchen tables is to ensure that food is not left unattended or in reach. If your dog is rewarded for jumping up on the bench, by finding food, then it will mean they are more likely to keep doing it. So be sure that you place all food away in the fridge or cupboards when you are not in the kitchen area.
      I have a slightly older Blog that refers to dogs who jump up at people and I will have posted the link below so that you can have a look and my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to overcome this behaviour…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan
      https://theonlinedogtrainer.com/how-to-stop-a-boxer-dog-jumping-up/

  1. That calm freeze is awesome not just for coming an anxious dog. I have a super energetic 1yr old boxer but even with daily walks and fetch and sometimes brain games, he still has so much energy. To calm him down (especially in the early morning or late evening) I’ve discovered that a couple minutes of calm freeze helps immensely!!

    1. Hi Tatiana,
      Thank you for your post! I absolutely agree that the Calm Freeze technique is a fantastic one to have in situations where a dog is overly excited and needs a little help to calm down. It’s really important that the Calm Freeze is done correctly though, with very little tension or force as this is not helpful. It should be a calm and relaxed procedure where the dog (or owner) are not struggling with one another as this will escalate things. It is also important to point out that some dogs don’t like being help by the collar and so a short leash can be used instead. All the best…Doggy Dan.

    1. Hi Gloria,
      This is a really tricky question to answer without more detail, and I will admit I am not a professional in this area so it may be a better idea to speak to your Veterinarian. What I do know is that how much you feed your dog depends on a number of factors such as age, activity level and the type of food you are feeding your dog. If feeding a dry kibble then most packaging has a feeding guide listed on it to help give a general daily amount. Best check in with your Veterinarian if you are unsure though. All the best….Doggy Dan

  2. Love the advice to keeping our doggies calm on this upcoming, very stressful holiday>..thank you again!

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your positive feedback! I always find that having a plan is the best way to keep things as calm as possible. All the best…Doggy Dan

  3. Is the calm freeze the best course of action for an excitable dog when the postman calls? She can hear his van pull into the yard, so is fore-warned.

    1. Hi Jackie,
      This really depends on a few factors. If your dogs is really agitated and the Calm Freeze does not seem to be having an effect then it can be better to calmly place her in another room so is more likely to relax. This will be really helpful if your postman normally knocks on your door and you have to open it to receive your mail. If your dog just gets a little bit excited at the sound of the postman’s van, and he is not likely to knock at the door, then you can certainly try a Calm Freeze but just be sure to remain calm yourself and not speak to your dog too much. If you respond to her behaviour consistently and calmly then she is more likely tho think, “why am I getting so upset?”.
      We do cover this issue on my website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com if you would like a bit more information…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  4. Good Day! I live in another country so we do not celebrate the 4th of July. But during Christmas, New Year and when we celebrate our town fiesta, our dogs are really stressed out because fireworks are often used to add excitement to the celebration. What we do during these times is we gather all of our 7 dogs inside the house so at least they will be safe and we could monitor their whereabouts. When the fireworks start all six older dogs scramble to the nearest table or chair or room and even the bathroom to hide. It is such a pity to see a 48 pound dog hide between the legs of a small side table . They would not even eat because of fear. Only our one year old dog that is the youngest of the 7 dogs , does not seem bothered by the fireworks. I will definitely try to practice the Calm Freeze technique as our town fiesta is fast approaching.
    And I would also ask my husband and my husband’s great grand niece to learn the technique so we can successfully calm down 6 adult dogs during a fireworks display. Thank you very much for sharing the technique !

  5. Wow…I subscribed to DDan’s site for a bit, but got busy, was out of town, have hunting dogs etc. Too busy to pay attention to the site, and I have dogs that are very different, in that they are field trial-ers and bird hunters, and aren’t supposed to learn those commands, such as “sit”, because it can cause problems in the field. THAT said, I do have one lap dog, a fab Norwich Terrier, and he is a MESS when it comes to fireworks, thunder, the Blue Angels etc. I just saw this video on the “calm freeze”, and while it was playing my sweet dog got very agitated and barky when he heard the dogs on screen whimper. I rewound to the point where the dog got noisy and immediately slipped my hand under my dog’s collar, as instructed by D Dan. WOW! He calmed down immediately! after about 40 seconds he sat his cute little fanny down! So, I am sold.
    Now, if D Dan could teach me how to teach a hunting and field trialing dog to be a good house pet, and a good leash walker (since by nature they are really to be a few hundred, or thousand, yards in front of you!), I’d owe him my sanity, my life. Up to the challenge, Dan? I’m driving to Kansas, where the national field trial for GSPs is, to pick up the young field trial-er in a couple of weeks. I can work on her after that!

    1. Hi Laura,
      The Calm Freeze is a pretty effective technique for helping a dog calm down! As far as whether or not you can teach a working dog to be a good house pet in y opinion you absolutely can. It’s just a matter of your dogs understanding that you decide when they are ‘on’ and working and when they are not and they can relax. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com shows you very clearly how to achieve this…maybe take a quick look…its a $1 trial for 3 days…all the best Doggy Dan

  6. Thank you for this information on the calm freeze! I shall be using on my Golden Retriever who spent the first 8 yrs of her life in a cement barn being bred. I’ve had her a year now & she has been easy to train. She is a little excited when we have company because it is usually her & I. A few months ago she decided loud noises were not her thing & would literally crawl inside me if she could! I shall look forward to not having her trying to sit on my lap, head etc! Thank you look forward to being calm again.

    1. Hi Glenda,
      Using a Calm Freeze for a dog who is fearful can be incredibly helpful, just remember to stay calm and matter-of-fact yourself as your Goldie will read your cues as well. Often the more fuss we make in trying to reassure the dog that everything s fine in these situations the more fearful the dog becomes. Thanks for posting, Doggy Dan

    1. I absolutely agree, trust is key in developing a good dog/human relationship. Dogs need to trust that we have what it takes to keep them safe in a world they don’t really understand the way we do. Best, Doggy Dan

  7. Hi Dan. I’ve heard but never tried this method to calm my dog during fireworks and electrical storms.
    Obtain a recording of some fireworks and play it to them on a very low volume. So low that it is barely audible to yourself. Leave the recording on all day until the dog becomes used to it. It could take more than a day. Once your dog accepts the noise and becomes calm, you sneak the volume up.
    I’d be interested to know your thought on the above.

    1. Hi Phil….desensitising dogs to certain noises can be an effective way to reduce their stress but often there are other factors involved that also contribute to the fear of noise. For example, storm phobic dogs can actually feel the storm from the changes in the atmosphere, often long before a storm even arrives, and this factor is almost impossible to recreate. As with fireworks there is also bright flashing lights, or if the fireworks are close enough, then you can often even feel the force of the blast in the air. Of course it’s always worth a shot to see if playing noises via recordings will help a dog’s fear reduce. Thanks for your suggestion, Doggy Dan

  8. Hi Doggy Dan,
    I watched and listened to your song about Peanut and your story about Jack. This story is about my cat, Celine who we had to have put down around Thanksgiving. She I were very close and she was always somewhere near me when I was in the house. She developed “injection site Sarcoma” slightly before Hurricant Irma. As her lump grew, she became sicker and her immune system and her kidneys began to give up. She was eating so I thought…well it isn’t time yet….she knew I was having trouble letting her go. One evening she went under the bed as had become her custom. She had stopped sleeping by my side. I started crying and she came out. I told my husband we had to take her to the Vet that night. I couldn’t wait until morning…I couldn’t stand it. He went to get the cat carrier. she started to try to walk away as she always did when the carrier came out. Then she stopped and came to me and got in the carrier. She never made a sound. While at the Vet’s they gave me a blanket to hold her it and I held her close to my chest. One paw dangled out and we calmly said good-bye. She knew she had to go and that I had to release her. We had that moment in time and then it was time for the shot. I let her go and swear I saw relief in her eyes. She was a peace.

    We had such a strong connection. I know she was a cat, but always said she acted more like a dog. We had an amazing connection and she knew my every mood. Thanks for your beautiful song and story!
    Love,
    Susan and Molly

    1. Susan this is an incredibly beautiful story and Celine was very lucky to have found such a loving family to call her own. It’s never easy to make the tough decisions about a pet’s quality of life but as much as we would like to keep them with us forever, we always need to do what’s best for them. Your story is incredibly sad but I’m sure you have plenty of beautiful memories of your time with Celine, and that’s what I always try to focus on. Best, Doggy Dan

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