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How to Ease Your Dog’s Fear During Thunderstorms and Fireworks

By Krista Halling DVM CCRP DACVS

If your dog is afraid of loud noises, it can be hard to enjoy outdoor adventures together. Here are 11 expert tips for reducing your furry best friend’s anxiety during fireworks or thunderstorms.

1. Behaviour modification

This is a longterm solution that starts at home. Behaviour modifying steps can be taken to reduce your dog’s inherent fear of these loud and explosive noises. Desensitization actions should be the cornerstone to helping your dog overcome their fear, but requires time and consistency. A dog trainer or your veterinarian can help with what specific steps would be effective for your dog.

Meanwhile, during thunderstorms or fireworks, you can help your dog with the following additional tips:

2. Plan ahead: choose a quiet location and watch the forecast

If possible, pick a weekend with good weather and keep an eye on both the sky and the forecast for developing thunderstorms.

If your dog hates fireworks, plan your trip to avoid peak times and locations where fireworks are common and try to pick a camping spot that is farther away from where fireworks are likely to be set off.

3. Wear ID at all times

A scared dog is a flight risk. Make sure your dog always wears a collar or harness with their name and your contact information. Apple AirTags (for seeing their real-time location) and an ISO-compatible microchip (for animal shelters or veterinary clinics to scan) are also excellent ways to increase the chance of you being reunited with your furry best friend.

4. Create a safe space in your tent or vehicle

Set up a cozy, enclosed area within your tent or vehicle where your dog can retreat, or consider sheltering in a pet-friendly hotel. Use your dog’s crate if they are crate-trained, or create a small, comfortable nook with their bed and favourite toys.

5. Soundproof as much as possible

Although it can be challenging while camping, try to minimize the noise. Park your vehicle away from the main fireworks area if possible. Use blankets or sleeping bags to create a sound barrier inside your tent or vehicle.

6. Ask your veterinarian about calming sprays and antianxiety medications

Ask your vet about calming pheromone sprays or wipes that you can use in the tent or vehicle. There are also some oral meds as well as calming chews which can take the edge off a dog so that they are less stressed by the loud noise. These can help your dog have a better experience despite the storm or fireworks.

7. Distract your dog with treats, toys and…Dog TV?

Pack high-value treats and interactive toys to distract your dog during the fireworks. Puzzle toys, long-lasting chews or peanut-butter-filled toys or lick mats can keep your dog occupied and help reduce anxiety. You can even try a Dog TV channel on YouTube.

8. Exercise your dog beforehand

If possible, give your dog plenty of exercise before the thunderstorm or fireworks to tire them out. You don’t need to go far – even a game of fetch counts. A well-exercised dog is more likely to rest and be less anxious from the loud noise.

9. Stay close and give pets and reassurance

During the storm or fireworks event, stay close to your dog, offering gentle reassurance and physical contact. Being close to you will help your dog feel more secure. Your calm demeanour can significantly influence your dog’s stress levels. Stay calm, speak in soothing tones, and offer comfort without reinforcing fearful behaviour.

10. Play calming music

Using your phone or a portable speaker, play some calming music, white noise or a podcast inside your tent or vehicle. This can help mask the sound of thunder or fireworks and provide a calming background noise. If playing a podcast, just make sure it’s not an episode your dog’s already heard. 🐶

11. Use a calming jacket

Use a calming jacket such as a ThunderShirt, which provides comfort through gentle pressure, much like a weighted blanket. We have no affiliation with the company but I have had very good results using ThunderShirts on fearful dogs during thunderstorms, fireworks and other stressful situations.

About the author

Krista Halling is a veterinarian board-certified with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and co-founder of Dogpacking.com.

One response to “How to Ease Your Dog’s Fear During Thunderstorms and Fireworks”

  1. Tami says:

    This is great advice. Thank you

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