Why Fireworks Scare Some Dogs But Not Others
June 26, 2020 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm lucky to have a dog that is not afraid of thunder, coyotes, fireworks or loud motorcycles, but he is deathly afraid of elevators.
posted by atomicmedia at 10:12 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]

My poor guy hides in the bathtub (and he weighs 102 Lbs so there's not a lot of room). Its heart breaking to see him so terrified. I admit to hating every single human who breaks the law and sets off their own fireworks. But I passionately hate the ones that do it for weeks leading up to the Fourth of July or New Years Eve. If it were just one or two nights a year, a couple Bennedryl will calm him down enough that his is not suffering quite so much, but I can't drug him up for weeks on end, and that's what its become; weeks of fireworks leading up to the actual holiday. If you are one of those people setting off big (1.3 g/1.4g) fireworks in your backyards I hope you feel the searing flames of my hatred and know that I am wishing you the absolute worst case of scorching eye herpes imaginable!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:44 PM on June 26 [14 favorites]

I can't tell if my dog is terrified or just excited by fireworks.

What I can tell is that she's a beagle mix, with a high pitched screaming bark, and she responds to both terror and excitement by barking.
posted by meese at 10:49 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

If you’re interested in trying to help your dog cope with fireworks and other loud noises, the wonderful Eileen and Dogs has a guide.
posted by Balthamos at 12:52 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

Our lab went into fits of excitement whenever fireworks could be heard. She desperately wanted to get to the source of the noise. We once took her to a local park where they were being set off and she had to be held back, barking and straining; still trying to get to the people that were setting them off. Our only theory is that her breeders routinely exposed the pups to gun shots to prep them as hunting dogs. Her distress made it seem like she was trying to get back to her family.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:40 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

our dog is a tiny ridiculous chihuahua mix who is on the one hand adorable but on the other hand is even in the best of times prone to fits of what i can only describe as anxious melancholy.

ever since the cops or whoever started setting off fireworks at all hours, she's responded to them as follows:
  • she shivers
  • she hides under the couch and keeps shivering
  • and then when she finally emerges she dramatically flops on the floor as a protest against the deep injustice of a dog as beautiful as her having to experience such terrible events
the situation has actually gotten pretty bad — she gets so stressed out she can't eat — and we've had to resort to first to cbd and then to doggie prozac. god when did i become a doggie prozac person back in the day the only time i'd ever consider psychiatric medication for a dog was when i was trying to scam the vet into giving me something that's fun for humans.

well anyway a couple of days ago a switch flipped in her head and instead of being melancholy she responded to one of those "was that a transformer exploding?" fireworks by jumping on the back of a couch and barking and barking and barking, her eyes gleaming with that totally unhinged unreasonable tiny rage that chihuahuas are so good at.

i was weirdly proud that she had finally gotten angry at the fireworks instead of being scared or sad. something like a parent being told by a school principal that their quiet and socially awkward child had gotten detention for finally punching the bully who'd been harassing them. "yes it is terrible, i'll tell them to never do that again great job kid! yes yes this behavior is totally inappropriate i'm so proud of you!!"
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:23 AM on June 27 [11 favorites]

My dog isn’t scared of them but they do anger her. She wants to fight them. She also wants to fight thunder, the area coyote pack, the nearby gun range, children playing in the neighborhood, the vacuum, the bonus cat, and basically anything that isn’t me or food. Everything needs to get off her lawn.
posted by Ruki at 8:40 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]

Big hugs to all of your dogs. We have an asshole neighbor who sets off single gigantic fireworks randomly throughout the year. Those scare our new doggo bad enough as is. I dread July 4th. He's going to spend days as a nervous wreck.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:07 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

note: i'm really glad that mefi, which i think of as a relatively liberal-rather-than-leftist space that i use to get out of my bubble a little bit, is largely on-board with the "the fucking cops are distributing/setting off high-powered fireworks" theory. even if it's not true, it's satisfying to say fucking cops! every time one of the big bangs goes off. it sure beats getting cranky at my neighbors.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 9:14 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

Dogs are also very aware of their human companions. When my dog was young, she went with us to the skeet range. As we wandered around on leash a little way from the field, the first time she heard a shot, she looked at me with concern. I told her it was okay, and you could see the concern melt from her body language. After that, she didn't let the shots bother her at all.

I've seen the same thing in young kids...they look to the parent to see if they should be upset. I heard a young child who couldn't figure out how to get out of a locked airplane bathroom become completely panicked when the flight attendant trying to get her out sounded panicked...the more worried the attendant sounded, the louder the girl cried. If the attendant had been calm and flat like this happens all the time, I'm sure the girl would have just waited patiently.
posted by Xoc at 9:47 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

For the first time in my life I have a dog who doesn’t care about fireworks and it’s amazing. The first couple of years I would still get so tense at 4th of July just assuming he would have a problem, but when he fell asleep upside down in my lap while my house was literally being shaken by explosives, I realized I had hit the lottery. One of the places we sometimes walk is next to a shooting range and he appears to be completely oblivious. Once in a while an ear might flick. That’s it.
posted by HotToddy at 10:27 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]

My dog reacts to fireworks/thunder. Some fear I think but also puts her into barking warning mode. I read something here years ago on the issue and a recommendation to comfort dogs that bark at fire works and ever since she'll get invited up on the couch ( a place she is normally not allowed) for hugs and petting. This both helps in the instant and it seems to have calmed her down around noise in general.

Now if only the same thing would work for wind. *sigh* Yes, my dog barks and freaks out when ever the wind blows hard enough to sway the trees.
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 AM on June 27

We had a black lab cross, both mellow and smarter than hell. He once fell asleep on a blanket at a fireworks show because he'd run out of kids to greet and got bored. Man, I miss that dog.

We now have a Chihuahua and a Pomeranian/Corgi cross. They are terrified of fireworks. Plus we live in a small town in a red state and there's nothing slack-jawed oil workers and local simpletons like better like better than blowin' shit up. For days. I'm tempted to spend the next Fourth of July week in Canada, provided the virus is defeated and the border is actually opened. I cannot stand to watch these dogs' nerves get rubbed raw.
posted by Ber at 10:55 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]

FYI: this year everything is cancelled but generally there are big fireworks displays on Canada Day (July 1st) and minor displays the week before/after depending on timing of weekends etc.
posted by Mitheral at 11:34 AM on June 27

One of our dogs is afraid of fireworks, thunder, the sound of rain... The other, a chihuahua mix gets angry at fireworks. He tries to be louder, to challenge the noise to a fight. I think he'd win too.
posted by Splunge at 11:41 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]

> The other, a chihuahua mix gets angry at fireworks. He tries to be louder, to challenge the noise to a fight. I think he'd win too.

i feel a deep kinship with chihuahuas.

once when i was a kid we visited a beach and i sort of lost track of time and long story short the tide came in and ruined the shoes that i had taken off and left on the sand. i then and there swore that i would get my revenge by somehow destroying the sea itself. i still intend to keep that vow.

i see you, pacific ocean. i don’t know how, i don’t know when, but i will someday, somehow defeat you.

posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:46 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]

Currently hanging out in the basement with a Boxador who is mid panic attack because of two or three scattered fireworks. July 4th is going to be rough.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:42 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]

North Seattle. Not a lot of fireworks this year, oddly. Dog that was terrified of them crossed the rainbow bridge last year. Other, remaining dog, never was all that bothered by them...

But, new puppy just arrived. Two weeks of older dog in abject terror of the tiny new puppy. Really tiring to deal with. They are finally seeming to enjoy playing/biting each other, though the pup is a sneaky monster, (her name is Nessie, fwiw), but. Dogs. They contain multitudes...
posted by Windopaene at 10:14 PM on June 27

Our dog is terrified of fireworks, even when they're barely audible to human ears. My wife and I will be watching tv and the dog will hop off the couch and walk down the stairs to the basement. If we mute the tv, we'll just barely hear fireworks way off in the distance. A few times she went to the basement when there were fireworks on TV. We live in Queens and our neighbors go crazy with fireworks on the 4th so I take the dog to visit my dad in the country to save her the stress. I really hate the people who randomly set off loud fireworks the rest of the year.
posted by Drab_Parts at 6:59 AM on June 28

My dog is afraid of pretty much everything except thunder and fireworks. Go figure. But god forbid we lose power for a second and the carbon monoxide detector beeps (once, not loudly) as it comes back to life. He trembles and shakes and has to be snuggled up tight in a blanket. That beep is TERRIFYING, y'all.
posted by cooker girl at 8:16 AM on June 28

My big dog has no cares in the world. The little one (20 pound mutt) was equally calm until two years ago, when the neighbor 100 yards away decided to set off a small town's display worth of fireworks. Now, thunder or fireworks sets her in a panic. I would like to slug that guy, but I don't want to go to jail, so I just stay in the house and hold my terrified fucking dog.

I hate people.
posted by corvikate at 11:28 AM on June 29

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