Dog Training Tips: How to Help Your Dog Overcome the Fear of Fireworks
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…
- You do not understand why your dog is behaving in such a way.
- 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…
- Take your dog out for a walk early on so that he is relaxed and tired before the fireworks start up.
- 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.
- Turn up the TV, music or radio. This simply deafens the sound so your dog will hear less of the noise.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take your dog under the collar using an underhand grip, so your palm should be facing upwards to the sky.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ignore your dear lovely dog. No speaking to him, touching him or looking at him. This part is crucial.
- Eventually, your dog will sit, but keep hold of them gently under the collar.
- It’s now time for you to transfer your calm energy by BEING CALM. No words are necessary at this point.
- Eventually your dog will lie down, keep hold of him for a while until he is settled and relaxed.
- When he is really relaxed, you can let go of him.
- 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!
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.
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!
~Doggy Dan 🙂