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Why Do Dogs Bark at Fireworks? 6 Reasons & How to Help (Vet Reviewed)

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on May 30, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog sitting on sofa and barking

Why Do Dogs Bark at Fireworks? 6 Reasons & How to Help (Vet Reviewed)

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Many dog owners dread certain holidays throughout the year because of the use of fireworks during those times. Independence Day, Labor Day, and New Year’s Eve all tend to be associated with huge fireworks displays. You may even have people shooting off small but loud fireworks in your neighborhood.

Whenever fireworks are going off, it can be extremely hard on your dog. Even the bravest of pups may be found cowering, shivering, and barking when the show starts. To help your dog feel safe and comfortable, it’s important to understand the reasons that they may be barking every time fireworks are set off.

The 6 Reasons Dogs Are Scared of Fireworks

1. They’re Loud

It’s impossible to miss the sound of fireworks when they’re being set off within a mile or two of where you are. These extremely loud explosions can be stressful for anyone who doesn’t like loud noises. Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans and can hear sounds about four times farther away than we can, which means that they can hear fireworks being set off from farther away and may be more disturbed by closer fireworks than we are.1dog looking out the window and watching the fireworks

Image Credit: Vince Scherer, Shutterstock


2. They’re Sudden and Unexpected

If you’re not watching the fireworks going off, it’s nearly impossible to know when one will suddenly explode. The unexpected nature of fireworks can make them extremely stressful for dogs. Some bark at sudden noises out of habit, protectiveness, or fear, so when you consider how loud, sudden, and repetitive fireworks are, it’s no surprise that this can be an extremely difficult time for your pup!


3. They’re Frightening

The combination of sounds, lights, debris falling from the sky, and the suddenness of fireworks is a recipe for fear for a dog. Dogs don’t understand what’s going on, so in their minds, the world is exploding all around them. When you think about it this way, you realize that it would be terrifying for anyone experiencing this situation.

Scared, stressed, panting dog hides underneath coffee table
Image Credit: Patrick H, Shutterstock

4. Your Dog Is Being Protective

Many dogs use barking as an alert system to let you know that there is danger nearby. This could mean your dog barks at the mail carrier every day, or it could mean that your dog only barks when someone is actively trying to open your door and get into your home. Regardless of how protective your dog is, once fireworks start, they may feel the strong need to protect you. For some dogs, like livestock guardian dogs, this can be even more stressful since they have an instinct to protect their flock or herd.


5. They’re Novel

It’s not every day that fireworks are exploding in the sky above your home. For your dog, the presence of fireworks is a novel event that is also likely extremely unsettling and stressful. Some dogs bark when they’re introduced to new things, so it makes sense that some dogs would bark at fireworks simply because they’re a new set of sights, sounds, and smells.

little dog barking at home
Image Credit: Dubin Mykhailo, Shutterstock

6. Your Dog’s Previous Negative Experiences

Dogs can experience traumatic events that leave a lasting impression on them. It’s difficult for us to know how much dogs actually remember their past traumatic experiences, but we do know that dogs that have experienced trauma around certain things can experience extreme stress and anxiety when exposed to similar things. This means if your dog had a previous experience with someone shooting them with fireworks or was in an environment where loud, sudden noises were associated with injury, like a car accident, fireworks can be a trigger that sends your pup barking their head off all night.

How to Help Your Dog During Fireworks

All is not lost when it comes to helping your dog during fireworks. There are things that you can do to make the experience less stressful overall. In some cases, your dog may need prescription medications from your vet to help keep them calm during the event. Here are a few options for making things easier on your pet during fireworks.

Have Safe Spaces

Ideally, your dog should already have an area in your home that they associate as their safe space; this is often a crate. However, during fireworks, your dog may need a place that feels extra safe and secure.

Provide them with a dim room that is calm. Use blinds, curtains, or blankets over the windows to limit external sounds and sights. In some cases, your dog may feel most safe in a room without windows, like a walk-in closet.

puppy in a dog crate
Image Credit: sophiecat, Shutterstock

Stay Indoors

The day after Independence Day in the U.S. is a day that shelters see a rapid rise in the number of stray animals brought in. Many dogs and cats are extremely frightened by fireworks going off, and it’s common for them to run away because of their fear. Whenever possible, keep your dog indoors throughout the fireworks. Plan a walk and any necessary potty breaks earlier in the day, before the fireworks start, and limit the number of times you go outside once they start.

Ensure that your yard is secure or keep your dog on a leash, make sure your dog’s collar fits appropriately, and keep all contact information on your dog’s collar tag and microchip up to date.

Limit External Sounds

Do whatever you can to limit the level of sound coming into your home during fireworks. While you can cover doors and windows to help buffer sounds, you can also play calming music, keep the volume on your TV or radio turned up, or even play a family game that your dog will enjoy participating in. While calmness is likely what your dog will prefer, some dogs are receptive to being distracted by an exciting, fun activity.

woman playing music with her dog at home
Image Credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

Use Calming Products

There are tons of calming products on the market, like chews, pheromone diffusers, and calming wraps. There are even dog foods on the market now that are designed to help manage anxiety and stress in dogs. Your vet will be a great resource to recommend to you the best options to keep your dog quiet and calm during fireworks.

Desensitize Them

Desensitizing your dog gradually to the sound of fireworks and other loud, sudden noises can help to make this a less stressful time for them. This can start as simply as quietly playing the sound of fireworks around your dog while you do other things. Over time, you can increase the volume level to get your dog more used to the louder version of the sounds. Provide positive reinforcement and high-value rewards during these sessions to help solidify your dog not fearing the sounds.

Conclusion

One of the best things you can do when it comes to dogs and fireworks is to plan ahead. Many of us unintentionally wait until the last minute, or we find ourselves sitting at home with a terrified dog wondering how we forgot to get things ready before the fireworks started. If you have a dog that barks, this can really up the stress level during fireworks, putting everyone in the household on edge. Try to be patient with your dog, and take precautions to make the situation less scary and stressful for them.


Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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