Is It Possible to Desensitize Your Pet To Fireworks And Loud Noises?

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Patrick H/Shutterstock

While some people may enjoy a fireworks display, the same cannot be said for our four-legged friends. Sadly, most dogs are overcome by fear and anxiety when they hear loud sounds, and it can even endanger their life – there have been more than a few cases where dogs have had heart attacks due to stress related to fireworks.

Of course, it’s not only fireworks – firecrackers,  thunder, and similar noise can all be a trigger to a dog that’s sensitive to sound. While you can’t prevent loud noises at all times, there is a way to help your dog cope better with sound-related stress. But is it possible to desensitize your pet entirely, so they’ll disregard the loud bangs altogether and ignore the ruckus outside, instead of being traumatized by it? Let’s find out. 

What Can You Do to Help Your Pet Cope with Noises?

Believe it or not, ​​it is possible to desensitize your pet to fireworks and loud noises through a process known as counterconditioning and desensitization. This method involves gradually exposing your pet to the sounds in a controlled and positive manner, helping them build a more positive association with the noises. Here are some steps you can follow to help desensitize your pet:

  • Start with a low-level recording of fireworks or loud noises. You can find these online or create your own by playing the sounds at a low volume.
  • Play the recording at a very low volume while engaging your pet in a positive activity, such as playing with their favorite toy or giving them treats. This helps create a positive association with the sound.
  • Gradually increase the volume of the recording over multiple sessions, always making sure your pet remains calm and comfortable. If your pet shows signs of distress or anxiety, reduce the volume to a level they are comfortable with and continue from there.
  • Repeat this process over several days or weeks, gradually increasing the volume of the sounds. The goal is to desensitize your pet by associating the sounds with positive experiences.
  • Additionally, you can use other techniques to create a calm environment during fireworks, thunderstorms, or other occasions followed by loud noises. These include creating a safe space for your pet, using white noise or calming music to drown out the sounds, or providing them with a  calming supplement  or medication (consult your veterinarian for appropriate options).

It's important to note that desensitization takes time and patience. Each pet is unique, and the progress may vary. If you're unsure about how to proceed or if your pet experiences severe anxiety or fear, it's recommended to seek guidance from a professional animal behaviorist or a veterinarian experienced in behavior modification techniques.

Are There Any Products That Can Help Calm Pets During Fireworks?

One of the more popular calming solutions for dogs is the so-called  “Thundershirt”. This is a snug-fitting garment that provides gentle, constant pressure to help calm dogs during stressful situations, including fireworks. The pressure from the Thundershirt can have a soothing effect on dogs and reduce anxiety.

You can also utilize special pheromone-emitting gadgets, such as  this adapter. This is a unique, vet-recommended solution that is completely drug-free. The adapter emits natural pheromones that nursing dogs produce. Your pet will be instantly reminded of his momma, and feel more relaxed in times of stress.

Another good solution is natural calming treats. Together with various supplements, these treats are formulated to help reduce anxiety in dogs. These products often contain natural ingredients, such as chamomile, valerian root, or L-theanine, which have calming properties. Don’t hesitate to try, especially in consultation with your vet.

While gadgets and supplements can be helpful, they are not a substitute for proper training, desensitization, and behavior modification techniques. Still, they can be a good intermediate solution, while the training itself is underway. Remember that it's always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist for personalized advice on managing your dog's anxiety during fireworks or other loud noises if you feel overwhelmed by it.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

More by Angela Vuckovic