Dear Julie,

My dog is deathly afraid of fireworks and this past Canada Day she was at her worst, pacing, whining and trying to climb up on me.  What can I do to help her when she get’s like this?


K9 Fraidy Cat

Dear K9 Fraidy Cat,

Your dog is likely sound sensitive if she has that level of a reaction to the sound of fireworks.  A good way to determine this is to evaluate how many and what other sounds cause her the same level of distress.  Often mild cases will show similar reactions to thunderstorms in addition to fireworks.  Severe cases can be reactive to every little sound including the car door closing.

The Key to dealing with any phobia is to identify the stimuli or sound that ‘triggers’ the dog to enter into the state of panic.  Once you have the problem stimuli identified, look for a way to shrink the problem stimuli to a level that the dog can tolerate.  For example, obtain an audio recording of fireworks going off, or video of fireworks.  Now you can shrink that stimuli to a tolerable level by lowing the volume of the stereo or television until the sound no longer bothers the dog.

Once you have that under control the next steps can be difficult to navigate on your own and serious cases require a skilled professional to assist in creating the program.  For mild cases, most dog owners can successfully help their dog overcome their fear by following these simple steps;

  • Play the stimuli on a low volume level as to not upset the dog
  • Begin to play with your dog’s favourite toy and reward him by lavishing him with affection and tasty treats.
  • Do this for 15 minutes 2 to 3 times a day for 2 weeks.
  • When you turn off the stimuli, stop the game and go back to normal daily life.
  • After 2 weeks your dog should be in the groove and ready to play when you turn on the stimuli.
  • Continue to play the game for 15 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day and slowly increase the volume of the stimuli by 1 to 2 levels every 3 to 5 days.
  • If at any point in time your dog shows signs of the original fear, go back 2 steps to where your dog showed no signs of fear, start again and stay at each new level for a full week or longer if necessary.
  • When the real deal happens, even if your dog is not ready for that level yet, go through your normal game routine and remember to stay positive and patient as your dog learns to play through her fears.