Dogs and Fireworks: A Match Made in Hades
By Landon Clark
Note: Our grandson, at age 14, wrote an entertaining family newsletter called Home Biz. Though I have edited papers for college students, I have enjoyed his writing just as much. So, sit back and enjoy Landon’s take on why dogs hate fireworks. And then comment in the box at the end if you enjoyed it.
The best part of the Fourth of July is undoubtedly the fireworks, followed by grilled food and the little thrill that comes with nearly blowing your fingers off with a firecracker. (For safety, always remember to hold it with your non-dominant hand.)
Unfortunately, not all of us are able to enjoy firework displays as a way of celebrating. And no, I’m not talking about the blind, the epileptic and/or people on night shift. I’m talking about those who really matter to us: our dogs.
Dogs seem to have an inherent and profound fear of what we humans regularly enjoy each summer. At first this seems to be a completely understandable phenomenon.
Thing in sky go boom and dog no like big noise.
But why does this reasoning not apply to other animals? Why do birds not freak out during fireworks like they do during eclipses, and why don’t we find our lawns strewn with dead rabbits the morning of July 5, all of them having suffered tiny heart attacks the night before?
Dogs don’t seem to be affected by other sounds similar in volume. I mean, if the barks of that dog that your neighbors leave out all night can penetrate your bedroom walls, they’ve got to be pretty loud coming out of its mouth. And yet it shows no signs of being affected by its own noise, or ever running out of lung capacity for that matter.
It certainly can’t be the flashes that bother dogs, as they are colorblind and would only see them as slightly lighter patches of gray. So, it appears that fireworks have some special effect on dogs that makes our furry friends hate them so.
After extensive clinical study (also known as me sitting here thinking about it for a solid seven minutes), I have come up with two theories. One is rational, and one I like best.
The first theory relies on dogs’ superb sense of hearing. A dog’s sense of hearing is much greater than our own, allowing them to hear not only sounds as louder than they are to us, but also to hear higher and lower frequency sounds. The boom of a firework ends for us when the sound waves become too low of a frequency for us to hear. But for dogs, the sound could go on for considerably longer, giving them no break from the noise as it would be followed by another firework before the first one’s sound ended.
So what sounds like a snare drum being hit for us is more like a jet engine for our dogs. I don’t think we’d enjoy fireworks much, either.
In case I happen to be wrong (very likely) I have a backup theory.
Now, fireworks have been known to cause war veterans with PTSD to recall bad memories and trigger their condition. Dogs have served alongside the US military since at least WW I, and formally became part of the program during WW II. It is therefore very likely that some dogs developed a condition similar to PTSD following their service.
These dogs would breed since they returned home, and their offspring would be born with this neurological condition in much the same way that animals are born with knowledge of their migration route or dietary habits.
With generations moving so quickly due to the relatively short lifespan of dogs, it is conceivable that by now nearly all dogs have inherited this trait, and as such have an acute fear of fireworks.
So next year when your dog cowers under your covers as blasts continue to go off well past midnight, try not to get too irritated. You have no idea what their dog’s great-grandpappy saw in ‘Nam.
Not Nearly as Funny as He Thinks
Your turn. Any theories on Landon's theories? Join the conversation below.