As a society, people are just beginning to accept that dogs, like humans, have emotions. And part of caring for canines means supporting their emotional health. The more we learn about the complexities of dogs’ emotional states, the better equipped we will be to keep their tails happily wagging. Recommended Videos Most Popular
In a more recent experiment with a group of border collies, dogs who showed greater signs of fear and anxiety toward loud noises actually had lower concentrations of cortisol in their hair. This sounds contradictory. To explain the finding, the team hypothesized that that “these dogs may have become dysregulated following chronic exposure, leading to a state of HPA hypoactivity, or ‘vital exhaustion’.” In other words, the dogs felt such constant anxiety that their internal mechanisms no longer responded, not dissimilar to chronically stressed humans who feel they can no longer cope.
Still, a dog does not have to be temperamentally fearful to suffer from a noise fear. In several studies of fear responses to noises, researchers find that factors such as breed, age, sex, reproductive status, length of time with owner, and early exposure to certain loud noises all impacted how dogs reacted to sounds like fireworks. Dogs living with an owner who bred them had reduced risk of fear compared to those with a second owner, for instance, and certain breeds compared to mixed-breed dogs were more prone to display fearful behavior.
On the other hand, evolution has trained most animals, including dogs, that avoiding a perceived threat is worth it for overall survival, even if, as in the case of fireworks, the threat doesn’t end up being real.
“There’s a myth that by reacting positively you’re reinforcing fear, which you can’t do because fear is an emotion not a behavior,” adds Harvey, who was not involved in the study.
After all, your dog has keen senses that make fireworks a more intense experience.
Your dog’s acute hearing makes him more sensitive to the sounds of fireworks than you are. “Fireworks also produce an odor that dogs may be sensitive to,” McGowan said.
It’s normal if your dog gets scared.
“While we humans have learned to expect fireworks around the Fourth of July, the sound of fireworks can be quite startling for dogs,” said Purina dog behavior scientist Ragen T.S. McGowan.
Do fireworks stress dogs out?
Do fireworks scare your dog? He’s not alone. While they’re fun for humans, the loud, unexpected sounds of fireworks cause stress and anxiety for a lot of dogs. Before July 4th rolls around, here are eleven things to know about why your dog gets anxious and what you can do to help.