Prevent Noise Aversion and Anxiety in Dogs from Fireworks

July 02, 2020 3 min read

As Independence Day approaches and summer storms are in full swing, it’s important to remember that more pets go missing during the summer months; more specifically, Fourth of July weekend, than any other time. Loud noises, such as fireworks and thunderstorms, can trigger anxiety in sporting dogs and non-hunting dogs alike.

A sporting dog that has not been broken of gun shyness may develop anxiety when exposed to the loud noises of fireworks. This could have lifelong, irreversible effects on their ability to be steady under gun fire. For more information, check out our article Preventing Gun Shy Dogs.

For those that have non-sporting dogs, fireworks can still be anxiety and stress-inducing. High levels of anxiety and stress in dogs can have adverse health effects overtime, as well as induce panic which can lead to the dog destroying property or running away in fear. This can pose as a serious risk, as escape attempts are often so frenzied that the dog may potentially become a hazard to themselves or others.

Signs of Anxiety

It’s of vital importance to be mindful of the symptoms of noise aversion, as they can greatly affect your dogs’ quality of life. Much like humans, the “fight or flight” response can be triggered upon exposure to loud noises. Some signs of this fear-related anxiety can often be missed by owners because it may be perceived as normal behavior or simply misbehaving. Signs and symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Panting
  • Yawning
  • Vocalizing (Barking, Whining, or Howling)
  • Pacing or Restlessness
  • Escaping or Cowering
  • Trembling and Shaking
  • Heightened Sense of Alertness
  • Self-Harm (Excessive Licking or Chewing)
  • Destructive Behavior

Damage Done During Anxiety Attack

What Can You Do?

If you are anticipating thunderstorms or fireworks displays over the summer season, there are a few things you can do to help protect your dog from noise aversion.

  • Exercise (retrieving training, bird work, or general endurance training) prior to a known fireworks display or predictable thunderstorm will burn off energy and allow dogs to rest more soundly afterward.
  • Modify your dogs’ environment to create a calm “safe place” to go. Keep your dog indoors in an inner room where the building’s structure will reduce the noise of fireworks or thunderstorms. Fearful dogs can be destructive, so do your best to remove any items that they may destroy.
  • If your dog is kennel trained, place him or her in the kennel with a heavy blanket over it to dampen sound and lighting. Ensure adequate ventilation and be considerate of the temperature inside of the kennel if not it is in an air-conditioned room.
  • Provide background noise, such as a television, fan, or music to help distract your dog and tone down the loud, outdoor sounds.
  • Behavior modification by counter-conditioning or systematic desensitization often requires a lot of time, patience, and consistency with your dog. Offering positive reinforcement, even if it’s just human comfort, alongside loud noises can work wonders. Eventually, your dog may learn to associate the sounds of fireworks, thunderstorms, and gunfire with positive outcomes. Systematic desensitization works by providing repeated exposure to anxiety-triggering stimuli in small, but increasing doses at a decreased intensity. Rewarding calm behavior may help your dog become less fearful of noise as well.
  • For situational anxiety-inducing events like thunderstorms or fireworks, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medication to aid in providing immediate relief from noise aversion symptoms.

It is a well-known fact that dog’s hearing is greater than that of humans in terms of distance and ability to hear in higher frequencies. A dog can hear sounds four times the distance away than what we can. Both of these factors, along with a lack of understanding of what is happening, can lead to anxiety and panic in dogs during a fireworks display. The sound from fireworks can introduce the onset of gun shyness, especially if the dog has not already been properly conditioned to loud noises. Some experienced dogs may still find the intensity and proximity of some fireworks to be too much to handle, which could possibly point your dog in the wrong direction in regards to gun fire.

Fireworks may be fun for people, but one bad experience with loud sound may cause debilitating anxiety for years to come. Reversing the bad habit of panicking at loud noises proves to be much more difficult than prevention before a problem arises. If you believe that your dog has an issue with anxiety, it’s recommended to consult your veterinarian to determine the cause and develop a successful treatment plan to prevent the worsening of other canine anxieties or symptoms that may cause harm to your dog.

We at Lion Country Supply would like to wish you and your family a safe and happy Fourth of July.


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