Guild of Shepherds & Collies

How to Prepare Your Herding Dog for Fireworks

prepare your herding dog for fireworks


Do You Know How to Prepare Your Herding Dog for Fireworks? We'll Help You!

Colors splashing across the sky. Pops, crackles, and whistling filling our ears. Sharp scents of smoke wisping down to earth. For us humans, fireworks represent a great celebration. Whether for Independence Day celebrations, commemorative events, or the New Year, setting off fireworks means something fun is happening for us. But unfortunately, this isn’t the case for our pups. Even the most fearless dog can be alarmed by the overwhelming racket and vivid explosions of light that fireworks cause. You may have a brave and sturdy herding dog, but do you know how they will handle the unexpected experience of being near fireworks? And do you know how to prepare your herding dog for fireworks? 

How to Accurately Guess Your Dog's Reaction to Fireworks

If you’re unsure how your dog will react around fireworks, think about how they behave during thunderstorms. Does the crack of thunder alarm them? Do they cower at the flash of lightning? If so, chances are fireworks will terrify them, too.

But don’t think that handling thunderstorms like a champ is an automatic ticket to a calm fireworks experience. Herding dogs, even more than your average pup, tend to be incredibly in-tune with how things “work” - knowing what’s natural and what isn’t natural, what should and shouldn’t be so. Fireworks have noises, flashes, and smells that are not natural. Some herding dogs become anxious around these unusual things even when a common thunderstorm doesn’t faze them. My own herding dog was a great example of this.

That said, a herding dogs’ intelligence, love of routine, and natural courage can be used to your advantage. If your dog can already handle some loud noises, then playing to their strengths can help them conquer any fireworks fears.

How to Desensitize Your Dog from Fireworks

It’s possible to make fireworks into something that isn’t scary anymore. Desensitizing is a powerful tool, and most of you reading this have probably already desensitized your herding dog from one thing or another.

But fireworks are extremely difficult to desensitize your pup from. The flashes of colored light, the volume of the noise, and the unusual scent are mostly unique to fireworks. So it’s tough to expose your dog to every element before the day arrives.

However, it is possible to start desensitizing them to the sound fireworks make.

This video on YouTube is a solid hour of looped fireworks sounds. The better your speakers, the more realistic it’ll sound. However, even with average speakers this video should help your dog get used to the racket.

Play the video at a very low level while your dog is eating their dinner, while you’re playing with them, or during a little training session that’s full of treats. Take about 10 minutes to play the video at low volume, then take a break. If during the session your pup is calm and focused on the fun times at hand, in your next session, turn up the volume just a little bit. If your dog becomes uncomfortable or shows signs of anxiety, turn the volume back down to where they’re relaxed and happy. Then just stay there for a few sessions, before trying to turn it back up again.

You can do this several times a day, but make sure you never crank the volume above your dog’s current comfort level. The goal is to gradually increase their tolerance level with repeated, low-stress, fun-associated sessions.

How to Prep on the Day of the Fireworks

Again, without actual fireworks going off, we can only give our dogs limited exposure to firework-like atmospheres. It’s hardly a perfect system. So even after you’ve evaluated your dog’s level of tolerance for loud noises, and even after working through the fireworks audio with them, be ready for your pup to still be uncomfortable during the fireworks display.

To combat their fear, set up a comfy “den” in a dark, windowless room in the middle of the house. It can be a closet or a bathroom, but whatever it is, fill it with their bed or crate and their favorite toys. In the worst case scenario where your dog is still frightened by the bizarre experience of fireworks, a room with no windows and their favorite things can provide a visual block from the flashes, and a little extra audio insulation.

Firework phobias can be difficult to treat and manage, but with your herding dog’s focus on you and their striking intelligence, you stand an excellent chance of overcoming this fear. Let persistence and patience characterize your efforts, and your herding dog will rise to the occasion.

Good luck!


Article By:
Afton Jones


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