I’m feeling very blessed this morning. Absolutely no one in our household is frightened of fireworks.
Unfortunately, many of our friends can’t say the same.
I’m left with lots of questions. And some ill-informed speculations. Wanna hear them?
My Questions (and Answers?) About Dogs and Fireworks
Why isn’t Honey afraid of fireworks?
Pick any or all of the three:
- Dumb luck.
- Mild spring thunderstorms when she was 10 weeks old helped to habituate her to loud noises. I remember her looking at me the first time she heard thunder. Luckily I don’t startle easily and had no reaction. She put her head back down and relaxed.
- Because Golden Retrievers were originally bred to be gun dogs; it’s part of her genetic heritage.
Why is it that some dogs who freak out at fireworks have no reaction to recordings of fireworks?
YouTube has tons of recorded fireworks you can play at low volume in the background when your dog is relaxed to teach him that boomers are no threat.
But according to the comments, many dogs have no reaction to these recorded sounds.
Most of us don’t have good enough speakers to reproduce the sound and the feeling of actual fireworks.
Remember how you feel those huge booms in your chest? I don’t think we can duplicate that at home.
But one trainer had a good idea—use your local outdoor shooting range for training. We have several “sportsmen’s” clubs in our area. If Honey were afraid of loud noises, I’d start finding spots for training that are far enough from the club to barely hear the gunfire and slowly work our way closer.
Can any dog lose their fear of fireworks with good training?
I definitely think it’s worth trying to train your dog to accept loud noises.
If Honey were afraid, I’d have to. We have fireworks three times a year—for Cornell graduation, Ithaca College graduation, and Independence Day week.
But I don’t believe every dog can get over their fear no matter how good a trainer you are. It’s why the excellent (free) e-book, Help Your Dog Cope With Fireworks, devotes a lot of space to management skills when you can’t teach your dog not to be afraid.
Is there any way I can help my friends with fireworks phobic dogs cope?
No, probably not.
But I can tell you how awesome you are for respecting your dogs’ fears and for caring enough about them to want to give them to feel comfortable.
While checking out fireworks resources online, I came across a training exercise where people (mostly men, interestingly enough) held their dogs (mostly German Shepherds, also interesting) down by the collar while the trainer set off firecrackers on the ground. No link. It was terrible and abusive.
Those poor dogs. They’ve learned that not only is the world a scary place but that they can’t trust their people to protect them from it.
So if you spent your Fourth of July cuddling your dog in the basement with the radio going and a few fans turned on, good for you. You’ve shown as much loyalty to your dog as she has always shown you.
Your Turn: How does your dog cope with Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, Guy Fawkes Day, Chinese New Year or other fireworks holidays? If your dog is calm, do you know why?