Updated: Nov 28, 2019
Puppyhood is the best time to desensitise your dog to potential future fears - and nothing is more common a worry than fireworks.
Why is My Dog Scared of Fireworks?
Dogs develop fears the same way humans do. If they are unsure of something and not taught to be ok with it, a slight concern can turn into a full-blown fear.
The loud bangs and bright flashes of fireworks can be overwhelming for dogs if they are not used to it.
Dogs can also pick up on their human's emotions, so if you are worried yourself (or, catch 22, are worried about your dog being worried), it can exacerbate the mood and make things worse.
How to Help Your Dog Feel Less Anxious
There are a number of things you can do right now to help your dog feel less anxious.
Build a Den
Try building them a den so they have somewhere safe to hide. Dogs like the comfort of being surrounded (like the natural caves they would have lived in when in the wild). Crates covered in blankets make excellent fortresses.
Like humans, dogs require some comfort when they are worried or scared. Don't shout at them if they are sitting in a corner or peeing on the floor (which can happen when pups are really nervous) - be understanding.
While being comforting is important, it's vital you make sure you are not unintentionally rewarding the anxious behaviour. Instead, praise and reward moments of calm. Encourage them to relax and feel secure.
If you know fireworks are going to happen, try taking them for a long walk during the day to get rid of any pent-up energy. Then try playing with them just before the fireworks (ideally a low-energy game or chew so they don't get worked up) so they are distracted. Shower them with praise when they ignore the fireworks, and encourage them to keep playing/chewing. They should connect fireworks with something positive (in this case, play/chewing) so they understand there is nothing to fear.
The most effective way to prevent a dog from being scared is to desensitise them. This is easiest to do when they are young as everything at this age is a new experience for them. Buy a noise CD - these are CD's that have common noises on like fireworks, yelling, car doors slamming, etc. Play these quietly in the background for 5/10 minutes at a time over several days in order for the puppy/dog to adjust to the sounds. As they begin to show no interest, praise them. When they ignore it completely, try turning the volume up. Eventually, the dog should recognise these sounds as normal everyday background noises.
With a bit of time and plenty of patience, it's possible to stop any dog from being afraid of fireworks!