Survival guide: pets and New Year’s Eve fireworks

Tips and strategies to help dogs, cats and other pets scared of fireworks cope on New Year's Eve.
By Kelli Harmon

 Ready to ring in the new year? If fireworks are part of your plans, take some steps to help your pets enjoy the holiday, too, since fireworks displays can be terrifying for pets. Their reactions can range from mild (wanting to snuggle or hide until the noise stops) to severe (breaking through barriers to run away or being really destructive).

The good news is that there are ways we can help our animals get through fireworks.

Pets and fireworks

Don’t wait to see how your pet responds to the sound of fireworks. Have a plan and be prepared. If this isn’t the first time that your pet will hear fireworks, you have an idea of how he reacts, so plan accordingly to help him through it.

There are several products that can help pets remain calm:

  • CBD: Give pets CBD chews or oil before the fireworks start. CBD products made specifically for pets may help dogs and cats feel a sense of calm and relaxation. One of our favorites at Best Friends is Heelr CBD pet products.
  • ThunderShirt: This product fits like a snug T-shirt and uses gentle pressure to calm the pet. You’ll want to teach your dog or cat to wear the ThunderShirt during a non-stressful time so that you aren’t adding something new to an already overwhelmed pet.
  • Pheromones: Another way to help lower a pet’s anxiety is with the use of pheromones (dog appeasing pheromones for dogs and Feliway for cats). These products come in various forms — as a wipe, spray, collar or diffuser — and you can choose the best option based on the situation. Again, give your pet a chance to experience the pheromones before the actual stress-producing event occurs.
  • Calming music: You can purchase calming CDs and collections that use soothing music and sounds to help ease pets’ anxiety. Check out the company called Through a Dog’s Ear.

Brown dog with graying muzzle chewing on treats

Here are a few suggestions for how to set up a cozy space in your home to help ease pets’ discomfort and anxiety:

  • Close the windows and curtains of the room that you are in, to help muffle the sound.
  • Add some background noise that is slightly louder than the usual volume you might use. Avoid the urge to turn the background noise up to full volume, though, since that could add to your pet’s stress.
  • Run a fan. The sound and vibration of a fan can help cover up the bothersome noises.
  • Give your pet a durable chew item. For some pets, chewing on something provides an outlet for their anxiety.
  • Cover your pet with a blanket to give comfort and help him feel safer.

A gray and white pit-bull-type dog hiding under a white blanket

When the fireworks start, some pets immediately seek out a hiding place. If that is your pet’s coping mechanism, help him find a dark, windowless place — a closet or a crate covered in a blanket — to wait out the noise. You can try comforting him, but if he ignores your attention, go ahead and let him be alone. Some pets prefer to simply hunker down for the duration, so we need to respect that choice. Check on your pet periodically, though, to see if he’s OK.

Desensitization and counter-conditioning training

Another option is to use the training methods of desensitization and counter-conditioning to reduce your pet’s distress. There are CDs of fireworks, thunderstorm or city sounds that you can play to desensitize your dog or cat to the noises that create fear and anxiety. These types of CDs are available from Through a Dog’s Ear. YouTube is also a good source of these types of sounds. You begin by playing the CD softly and then gradually increase the volume so the pet does not react to the sounds.

You can use the technique of counter-conditioning to allay your dog’s fears by giving him a long-lasting, enticing treat (like a stuffed Kong or his favorite chew) while playing the CD or YouTube video. Giving your dog only the best treats during these sessions can help him develop a more positive emotional response to the noise. If your pet has a severe reaction to fireworks, consider enlisting the help of a relationship-based dog trainer or behavior consultant to devise a detailed training plan for desensitizing and counter-conditioning.

Give your pets a New Year’s gift and help them have a fun, stress-free day and night. And best of all, when the Fourth of July and other holidays with fireworks roll around, you’ll be prepared.

Get more tips on how to help your pets

Photos from HeelrCBD and Best Friends staff

Caring for Pets