Whether it’s the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve or your friend’s wedding, a fireworks display is always fun to watch. But while those pops and sizzles may delight us humans, they can be pretty stressful for dogs. These loud noises, flashing lights and strong smoky scents can leave them frightened and confused, especially considering how unpredictable they are. Seriously, the sound alone can be so intense for pups to the point that it scares them. (Cue: Gwyneth Pawtrow hiding underneath the bed.) From creating a safe den to talking to your vet about calming medications, here are eight tips to help your furry friend cope with fireworks.
1. Stay calm
Your lovable pup looks to you for, well, pretty much everything. So watch your body language—try to stay calm and at ease instead of jumping at any loud noises. And remember: a little reassurance (like a treat or two) can go a long way.
2. Plan accordingly
If you know what time the fireworks are happening, plan your dog’s walk and meals beforehand. Take Buster for a stroll before the action starts (make it a nice and long one to tire him out) and consider giving him a bigger meal in the afternoon to help him sleep. (Hey, those party leftovers have to go somewhere.)
3. Prep your home
Some dogs bolt when they’re scared, so make sure your home is properly secured. And while you probably won’t be able to completely block out all the noise, drawing the curtains and putting the TV or radio on can help. (Or pop on white noises for dogs that'll reduce their anxiety for the meantime.)
4. Keep their information updated
Speaking of running away, it happens more often than you think. To avoid the stress (and heartache) of losing your doggo, make sure all of their information is updated and you have a way of tracking their whereabouts in case they go missing. Whether you get a smart GPS collar or have them microchipped, you want to have multiple options so your furry friend can be found quickly.
5. Make a safe den
Create a comfortable spot for your pooch to retreat to in case she feels overwhelmed. This can be a cardboard box in her favorite room or even just a bed sheet draped over a chair (a dog fort!). Place some of her favorite toys and treats in the den and don’t try to coax her out if that’s where she decides to hide until the show’s over.
6. Swaddle your pup
Just like how swaddling can make babies feel nice and cozy, your dog might benefit from some extra snuggle pressure, too. ThunderShirt does the work for you by wrapping your pooch in a warm embrace in order to help ease their anxiety. And in case the name didn’t give it away, it works for storms too.
7. Talk to your vet
If your dog really can’t handle the fireworks, you may want to consider a puppy Xanax (yep, it’s a real thing). Just remember to consult your vet first before giving your pup medication.
8. Don’t punish your dog
Some dogs react to stress by scratching or digging, but it’s no use punishing them for ruining your favorite cushion—they’re simply reacting to their fear. Instead, focus on altering the emotional response using some of the tips above and the resulting behavior should change as well.