Last Updated: May 13, 2021
Have you ever wished you could dress up your pooch like an American patriot and take them to the fireworks show before remembering that they can’t stand the sound? If you consider that your sense of hearing absolutely pales in comparison to your dogs, you might understand why they hate the noise.
Our superior canine friends are extra-sensitive to loud noises. A dog can hear four times farther than we can. They can also hear higher frequencies and decipher noises much better than us. Imagine being your dog and listening to the intense crack of a firework—deafening, right? That’s part of the reason why your dog is frantic at your Independence Day celebration. Let’s explore the many factors surrounding your pup’s fearful reaction.
How Well Do Dogs Hear?
Dogs trump us in terms of sensory, beating us with hearing and smelling capabilities. But just how well can dogs hear? Way better than one might imagine, that’s for sure.
Dogs are pros at picking up on frequencies we can’t hear. Humans can only hear frequencies up to 20,000 hertz. Dogs, on the other hand, hear frequencies between 45,000 and 65,000 Hertz. That means they hear well over two times the pitched frequencies we can. Dogs for the win.
But that’s not all—dogs also hear much quieter sounds than us, too. Dogs can hear sounds as low as -5 decibels. Now, that’s pretty impressive. Tie that all up in a bow, and it suddenly becomes clear just how stimulating fireworks might be.
Reasons Dogs Are Scared of Fireworks
So, what does all of this knowledge on dog hearing have to do fireworks? To shed light on the fact that dogs have super sensitive ears—fireworks are no silent movie. They can be unpredictable, confusing, and ear-piercing.
It’s really one or a combination of three things.
Listen to all that racket! And for what? Most dogs view fireworks as a source of unexpected and anxiety-inducing noise. Fireworks are erratic, unfamiliar, and noisy.
Dogs are primarily scared of fireworks for the reason you can imagine—they’re loud. All dogs can get used to their environment. But it’s hard to get used to something that only happens once or twice a year. Plus, we all know dogs aren’t too gung-ho about thunderstorms either.
- Bright Lights
On top of the pops and blasts, fireworks light off unnatural sparks into the sky. The noise accompanied by the mysterious explosions in the atmosphere can be off-putting, to say the least. What kind of apocalyptic nightmare is this?
Lighting emitted from fireworks is abnormal and unnatural to your dog, which can frighten them.
As if every other stimulus around wasn’t enough, there are probably tons of strangers around. Large crowds might trigger anxiety in dogs as it is. Mix that with fireworks, and you could have one frazzled pooch.
Each of these three factors stimulates a trigger for a fight-or-flight response in some dogs, alerting them that something is wrong. That’s why your dog dives under a table at every crack of thunder during a storm. They perceive this unstable, roaring sound as a threat, making them react in a bad way.
If your dog reacts negatively to this sort of festivity, there’s no reason to put them through the stress.
Dogs with Anxiety
If you have an easily stimulated dog, fireworks might be a sensory overload for them.
Signs of anxiety include:
If you have a dog that gets easily stressed, they might want to sit this one out. It’s best to put your pooch in a safe environment rather than out in an insecure situation.
How to Help an Anxious Dog
If you’re at home and you can still hear the crashes and booms outside—your dog is probably still frantic. So, here are some different methods you can use to calm your dog before or during the big show.
- Get Plenty of Exercise Beforehand
Let your dog burn off some extra energy that day. Take them out for a tiring game of fetch, go on a run, toss a frisbee—anything to let them expel any pent-up energy. Once they burn off a few calories, they might be so tuckered out they barely notice the festivities.
Humans aren’t the only ones who benefit from playing tunes. Studies show that dogs enjoy the relaxing nature of music, too—especially reggae, soft rock, and classical. You can play a little soft music to add some soothing noise of your own.
There’s nothing better to reassure your pup that all is well quite like their favorite human. Lay with them on the couch or get down on the floor to massage, scratch, and talk to your buddy. The more you reassure them, the more confident they will feel.
Your dog might like to be alone in an area where they feel unseen. If you want, create a nest or covered area that your dog can lay in to feel safe. They might have a favorite spot under your bed or a kennel they run to for refuge. Make it feel inviting and protecting.
If your dog has bad enough anxiety, you might want to invest in a wrap designed for dog anxiety. It is a heavy, tight coat that fits their bodies to calm them down. You can even use an old t-shirt if you have one lying around. They just need a little weight and pressure to feel snug and secure.
If you want a homeopathic remedy, you could try diffusers or calming supplements. These smells calm your dog, providing a sense of relief in trying times. Many owners swear by the power of natural alternatives over potentially harmful anxiety medications.
Can You Get Your Dog Used to Fireworks?
If you start working with your dog early, they might not freak out over loud noises and crowds as much. If you want to expose your dogs to these kinds of things, try to start as early as you can. It can be really challenging, and sometimes impossible, to change their reaction in some dogs—especially adults.
Once they develop an opinion about something, it’s hard to change their mind. It’s also difficult to prove to them that loud noises mean them no harm. After all, some loud noises absolutely do signal harm. You should never pressure an older dog to acclimate if they resist entirely because it could be damaging.
Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe During Fireworks
If you do plan to take your dog on an outing with fireworks, there are some things you should consider first.
- Microchipping—Your vet or local shelter can apply a microchip to your dog. These electronic chips are injected just under the skin between the shoulder blades. If your dog escapes and someone finds them, any vet or animal professional can scan the chip.It sends signals back with a unique identification number. They can look up the number in the database, which is linked to your contact information. If your dog gets away from you for any reason, microchipping can bring you peace of mind.
- Have Proper Restraints—Having a harness that holds up against great force will be paramount in the situation. Your dog might panic and pull out of a traditional harness, so ensure that you have a proper leash and harness combo.
Harnesses with a control handle on the back work best, so you can get full control over them if you need to restrain them.
- Keep Your Dog Home—Unfortunately, for us, our dogs aren’t always ready to party. Sometimes, they have to skip out on the fun stuff. If your dog doesn’t enjoy crowds, loud noises, or heightened stimulation, they might be best at home where they are safe.
Exposing an anxious dog to these kinds of activities might have the opposite effect of what you hope to achieve. There’s always the next crafty backyard barbecue with friends where your dog can socialize and pick up dropped hotdogs for the evening.
Don’t feel like you’re leaving your dog out. Trust us—they’d thank you if they could.
Dogs and Fireworks: Final Thoughts
Fireworks can bring so many happy memories that we share with our families. So, naturally, we want to include our dogs. However, in some dogs, exposing them will cause anxiety, creating a potential flight risk. To keep your dogs safe, always have proper restraints and make sure your dog is microchipped.
And if you’re at home but the sound is really getting to your dog, try to calm them with a compatible method that makes them comfortable. Remember that it’s not your dog’s fault—they have fabulous ears, and those noises are just plain scary!
Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.