Dogs and fireworks: The fear isn't all in their heads

For many Americans, the Fourth of July means fireworks. For many dogs, those fireworks mean nothing short of terror.

People who have seen their otherwise good dogs cower in fear at the thunderous claps or whistling sounds that accompany modern pyrotechnics will probably not be surprised to know that about 45 percent of dogs have a fireworks phobia, according to a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Add to that the rollback of many state restrictions on individuals setting off fireworks, and it’s enough to traumatize just about any pup.

The Conversation reported last year that only three states ― Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey ― banned residents from purchasing any type of fireworks. Since then, New Jersey has loosened its restrictions to permit non-exploding, non-aerial fireworks, like sparklers, smoke bombs and party poppers.

From 2000 to 2017, The Conversation said, use of fireworks in the United States doubled. That’s certainly not good news for a fireworks-sensitive dog.

Meanwhile, animal shelters have reported that their busiest days are July 4 and 5 because animals who have run off because of fear of fireworks are turned in and many panicked owners are searching for their pets.

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Just six breeds on Earth are more popular than the venerable poodle, which come in three variations: toy, miniature and standard. Smart, active, and remarkably obedient, poodles are hypoallergenic and they rarely shed. Their dense coats, however, require significant professional grooming -- especially if you want the elaborate patterning that wins dog shows.
For dogs with such long, flowing coats, silky terriers shed surprisingly little -- and they're also refreshingly easy to groom and maintain. Since their hair is so long, it is prone to tangling and matting, so don't use infrequent shedding as an excuse to neglect a good brushing two or three times a week.

Statuesque, dignified and loyal, the Saluki is built for hunting and endurance running. They can be smooth or coated and they come in a variety of colors. No matter which version you end up with, shedding is light and infrequent, and Salukis require just modest grooming.


The coat of a Lagotto Romagnolo is so dense and woolly that looking at their faces makes you wonder how they could possibly see what's in front of them. But their curly double coats of fur actually shed very infrequently -- and they're hypoallergenic. They're generally easy going, medium-sized dogs, and they can be counted on to be energetic, but not hyper.


Take one look at the affenpinscher and you'll know why the American Kennel Club has nicknamed it the "monkey dog." Its primate cuteness is complemented by the minimal, seasonal shedding of its wiry coat. They don't need a lot of grooming, but schedule in two weekly brushings and combings, as well as two yearly trimmings.


Athletic and energetic, Portuguese water dogs live up to their names -- they can swim for extended periods of time without tiring. Their coats are both waterproof and hypoallergenic. They can be wavy or curly, but either way, they shed very little and only seasonally. Keep in mind, however, that the American Kennel Club describes their coats as "profuse" -- so grooming demands can be significant.


This medium-sized African hunting dog has short, fine hair that requires only minimal, infrequent grooming. Alert and energetic, the basenji is one of the top 100 most popular breeds, and that probably has something to do with the peace and quiet that comes with owning one -- basenjis don't bark.


If you've ever seen a walking mop that looks like it's on its way to a reggae concert, that's a komondor. The defining characteristic of this brave and loyal Hungarian work dog is its trademark long, dense, corded coat, which protects it from weather and animal attacks. Underneath all those dreads, however, is a large, powerful dog that can grow to more than 100 pounds. They shed only seasonally, but all that mop requires some work -- daily grooming is required.


The tallest among all American Kennel Club (AKC) spaniels, Irish water spaniels can stand 2 feet tall at the shoulders and weigh up to 65 pounds. Their waterproof coats are hypoallergenic, and they shed only minimally and seasonally. They're low maintenance, too. You can get away with brushing them just once every few weeks.


Known for their courage and ability to send intruders packing, the Bouvier Des Flandres sheds only lightly and seasonally, but grooming can be a bit of a chore. Their constantly growing hair can quickly become matted and unclean if they aren't brushed regularly.


Is it as sheep? A lamb? Nope. It's a Bedlington terrier, and it's known for its gentle, charming personality and its cottony, hypoallergenic coat. Bedlingtons are easy to care for on a day-to-day basis. The tradeoff, however, is that they do require occasional professional trimming and other grooming.


Translated literally from French, bichon frise means "fluffy white dog." The French didn't leave much to the imagination -- that description pretty much sums it up. Not only does the bichon frise rarely shed, but it's hypoallergenic. The fluffy white dog has hair, not fur, so that means you will have to brush it regularly to prevent matting.


The Airedale is the largest member of the terrier family, and they're defined as much by their powerful legs as they are by their cleverness. They're easy to maintain and they're extremely light shedders, but regular stripping and brushing definitely comes with the turf.


Friendly, healthy, and easy to train, the small Bolognese breed produces vibrant dogs that rarely shed and are easy to groom -- as an added bonus, they tend not to drool. Part of the bichon family group, Bolognese get their name from the region of Italy to which they trace their centuries-old lineage.


Both standard schnauzers and giant schnauzers are hypoallergenic, although giants can grow to nearly 100 pounds -- around double the weight of their smaller cousins. Since their coats are made not of fur, but of continuously growing hair, be prepared to strip or trim them regularly.


Topping out at about 40 pounds, the soft-coated Wheaten terrier has a stubborn streak common to terriers, but is generally a happy, loving -- and largely non-shedding -- animal. Known for their leaping, jumping greetings, Wheatens can be a handful when it comes to grooming. Expect to brush and comb twice a week and schedule baths and haircuts at least once a month.


Keen and intelligent, border terriers have full coats that could lead you to assume they shed relentlessly. They don't. The reality, however, is that these traditional working sheep dogs love the outdoors, and their long coats are magnets for dirt and debris. Don't worry about shedding, but do brush them regularly to make sure stuff that should be outside stays outside.


Dogs from the Brussels Griffon breed can come in a variety of colors and their coats can be either rough or smooth. No matter which variety you choose among this bearded breed from "As Good as it Gets" fame, you can count on it shedding only minimally and seasonally.


Few breeds in history are more instantly recognizable than the Cairn terrier, which you know better as Toto from "The Wizard of Oz." It's recommended that you brush these curious, busy dogs regularly -- about once a week should do. But beyond that, you should expect just minimal seasonal shedding.


Statuesque and adorned with biker beards, Kerry blue terriers were bred to hunt, but they've evolved into popular show dogs and play-outside-all-day dogs. They're hypoallergenic and they shed infrequently, but human-dog bonding can be intensified through regular brushing.


It's almost certain that you'll live your whole life and never confuse a Chinese crested with any other breed. These fine-boned toy dogs are either hairless or the powderpuff variety. If you fall in love with a hairless, you'll have to put in a little extra effort to prevent sunburn, cleanliness, and exposure to cold, but neither version of this dog, which is known to act more like a cat, comes with much grooming responsibility.


Scotties are known for their dangling beards and brows, which give them their trademark expressions. Bred to hunt foxes and badgers, the Scottish terrier is compact and sturdy. They do require regular grooming to retain their unique appearance, but they shed only seasonally and minimally.


Small and happy, the Coton De Tulear is a light, seasonal shedder with hypoallergenic qualities. Known as the royal dog of Madagascar, its dry, white, long, cottony coat does require brushing with a special pin brush to maintain its luster and volume.


Afghan hounds are prized for their striking beauty, proud posture, and elegant long hair. Underneath it all, however, is an agile, athletic hound that can stand 27 inches tall and is built for work. They're hypoallergenic and they rarely shed, but don't think that will let you off the grooming hook — frequent brushing and bathing are part of having a relationship with an Afghan hound.


The soft, silky coat of a Havanese -- which can come in 16 colors and eight markings -- rarely sheds and is perfect for people who suffer from allergies, although regular grooming is required. Slightly longer than they are tall, their undeniable cuteness lands them a spot among the 25 most popular breeds.

Lhasa Apso

The unmistakable coat of a Lhasa Apso parts down the middle from head to tail. Active but calm, they're popular show dogs and they tend to be very healthy. Another benefit is that they shed very infrequently. Their long coats, however, do require a lot of grooming.


The Maltese has a reputation as playful, affectionate and surprisingly fearless for its little size. The breed is most famous, however, for its long, elegant, white coat. They shed very lightly and infrequently -- but don't mistake that for low maintenance. Daily brushing and frequent grooming are required to maintain their trademark floor-length coats -- and yes, don't worry, there are feet under there somewhere.


An interesting breed with an interesting name, the medium-sized Xoloitzcuintli -- often just called xolo -- is not just one of the rarest breeds, but also one of the oldest. Scientists believe its ancestors accompanied ours on their Ice Age journey across the Bering Strait. The hairless version is nearly naked, and the version with a coat has short, clean hair that rarely sheds, is hypoallergenic and requires only infrequent brushing.


Feisty, fearless, and affectionate, the American hairless terrier actually isn't always hairless. Even the coated varieties, however, are hypoallergenic and rarely shed their short fur. A single weekly brushing with a soft-bristled brush should be enough.


Since the breed is hairless, shedding obviously won't be a problem with a Peruvian Inca Orchid. But intense and meticulous skin care is critical for the first year of the small dog's life. They'll pay you back, however, with affection, loyalty and hypoallergenic skin that is perfect for alleFrgy sufferers.


Animal behaviorist Corey Cohen, who is based in Pennsylvania, writes in his blog Path of Friendship that dogs have a biological response to the loud sounds that accompany fireworks.

“When our dogs are exposed to sudden loud sounds, there is a release of adrenaline and an increase of the hormone cortisol, as well as changes to their amygdala, hippocampus, and parts of the frontal cortex of their brain,” Cohen says. “In other words, brains change as a result of loud, anxiety producing noise. Our dogs are especially vulnerable to this effect during the summer months when thunderstorms prevail and during Fourth of July celebrations, where fireworks are set off in some neighborhoods all day and night.”

So how can you help your dog get through the holiday?

“The best thing we can do for our friends when they are stressed is to allow our dogs the dignity of choosing their own coping strategies that will help them, as long as they aren’t harming themselves,” Cohen says. “Our dogs are intelligent, self-determined beings that can find coping strategies to help them deal with fearful situations and regain a sense of homeostasis.”

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#15: Australian Shepherd

Australian shepherd owners typically lose their dog about 0.9 times a month.​​​​​​

Photo: Rhonda Venezia Photographer via Getty Images

#14: Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernes mountain dog owners typically lose their dog about 0.9 times a month.

Photo: Martin Ruegner via Getty Images

#13: Treeing Walker Coonhound

Treeing walker coonhound owners typically lose their dog about 0.9 times a month. 

Photo: ExcitingTravelsGoNow via Getty Images

#12: Standard Poodle

Standard poodle owners typically lose their dog about 0.9 times a month.

Photo: ivanastar via Getty Images

#11: American Bulldog

American bulldog owners typically lose their dog about 0.9 times a month.

Photo: Carolyn A McKeone via Getty Images

#10: Great Dane

Great Dane owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: Jupiterimages via Getty Images

#9: Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: Danita Delimont via Getty Images

#8: Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: Ozgur Donmaz via Getty Images

#7: Black and Tan Coonhound

Black and tan coonhoud owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: WilleeCole via Getty Images

#6: Pit Bull Mix

Pit bull mix owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: Paul Park via Getty Images

#5: Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick coonhound owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: Avondell via Getty Images

#4: Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula leopard dog owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: mountinez via Getty Images

#3: Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees owners typically lose their dog about 1.2 times a month.

Photo: John P Kelly via Getty Images

#2: Bloodhound

Bloodhound owners typically lose their dog about 1.5 times a month.

Photo: Danita Delimont via Getty Images

#1: Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian shepherd owners typically lose their dog about 2.13 times a month.

Photo: Scott Hailstone via Getty Images


For some dogs, the coping strategy may be to hide in a den-like space, perhaps under a piece of furniture. For others, a distraction, like playing with a toy or ball, may help alleviate the stress. Dogs who consider their crates to be safe spaces may feel better in them, although Cohen says that not all dogs will find their crates comforting.

“One of the best ways we can help comfort our dogs is through touch,” Cohen says. “Gentle, easy massage is a great way to stimulate oxytocin, which is a natural antidote to adrenaline. Technique is not that important. It’s just the close, loving physical contact that helps.”

Cohen says there is a bright spot in all of this. When you connect with your dog while trying to help alleviate the stress and fear, “you may find that sharing this experience brings you a closer, more trusting relationship. By helping each other through this tough time, you further deepen your friendship.”  

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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