Establishing a Safe Place For Your Dog, Preparing for Thunder and Fireworks

thunderstorms and dogs, fireworks and dogs

Beagle dog on bed close-up

In some instances, we can’t always protect our dogs from fears that might come into the house.

The sounds of people, vehicles, thunder and even gun shots can permeate our walls and invade our dog’s homes.

And, when you have a dog that suffers from noise fears, or other fears that may exist in the house (think vacuum) then it is critical to build a safe haven for your dog to go when he feels stress.

I had dogs that were bomb proof.

But as one of my dogs got older, somehow he developed meningitis. The fact that his brain was swollen made normal noises like gun fire, fireworks, and thunderstorms physically painful for him.

I had to decide to make a difference in his life and help him to the best of my ability.  I couldn’t stop those things from happening so I had to do what I could to help him feel better.

I cleared out the floor of my closet and I made it a place any dog would want to be.  Some dogs may need the safety and confinement of a crate to ensure they don’t hurt themselves or eat your home and things.

It was cool and dark and I placed his favorite therapeutic dog bed inside, along with a slew of toys and treats that would only stay in this safe area.

For thunderstorm phobias, I make sure that no natural light can penetrate the haven.  Often time the flashes of light which are associated with the big booms of thunder can cause more panic.  If I can block my dog from seeing the flashes of light I have a better chance of keeping it and the noise off of his mind.

If he had not been trustworthy while I was out of the house, I would have put his crate inside the area.  And, depending on the dog depends if it is safe, or not safe to leave toys and other things that may be chewed.  It is crucial that the dog not panic and ingest anything that could require surgery.  It is also critical if the dog must be crated, that you also occasionally crate him while you are in that room with him.  Give him a bone stuffed with peanut butter or whatever he really likes and doesn’t get often, but make him accustomed to being left in his crate and thinking it is a good thing.

I make sure the drapes to my bedroom are always closed and drawn, and if I can I layer drapes so very little light gets inside the room.  You can also cut pieces of reflective Styrofoam to insert into windows so that no sun will get through the windows.  Imagine if you worked at night and needed no light to sleep during the day.

I also have a fan plugged in and turned up high.  This white noise helps block the sounds of everything else that is going on outside.  I can’t tell you how often a person has snuck up on my house because the dogs were in the bedroom with the fan on and they couldn’t hear the person’s car or footsteps!

Next I make sure I either leave the television on, or I leave a loud radio station on throughout the day.

I don’t care what genre of music you prefer (as long as it is not quiet, like classical) as long as you can crank it high and allow it to drown out even more noise that might bother your dog.


thunderstorms and dogs, fireworks and dogs

Dog lying on the bed with his head resting on a plush cushion - golden retriever

Then it is important to TRAIN for an event.

If the only time you grab your dog and head for his “spot” is when a thunderstorm is looming; your dog will begin to have panic attacks and panic when you grab him or when he is in that room.

The key is to spend time in his safe place often, so that he establishes himself there and learns to have a good time in that area.  It is also critical that he is used to all the white noise and TV or music when he is in that room any specific change will signal the dog that the “real deal” is on its way.

I often grabbed a book, or watched a movie (very loudly) while my dog chilled out and chewed on a bone, or snuggled with me on the bed (if this is okay in your home).

By training and staying in that area, I am conditioning him that being inside is a good thing where he has good memories.


Then when the air pressure dropped, I could watch him head into the bedroom.

If I was available, I would go in and watch a movie, take my computer or read a book.  But occasionally I would have things to do, or need to leave.

The key was that I gave him a place where he could feel safe and didn’t need to panic.  And, it was a place where the white noise drowned out the terrifying things around him!

Even now I have one dog that doesn't like thunder or gun fire.  He knows when he hears it to head into his crate.  I even have a crate outside in case he hears something he doesn't like; and he uses it when he feels that he needs it!

It may not work “perfectly”, sometimes nothing does… but the key is that you are giving him a safe and happy place that will at least lessen the severity of his fears.

If he is terrified, speak to your vet about medications that can help and follow through with the training for this safe place.

For some dogs, the pain associated with their fears requires medication to help them manage quality of life.

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  1. Jason says:

    I actually took an old foam pad (from a bed) and made a cloth wrap for it and placed it in the closet, and that’s Link’s (my dog’s) favorite place whenever something scares him. Weird enough, he is terrified of horse flys. I’m thinking it must be something with the buzzing sound.


  2. Eileen says:

    I’ve done exactly the same thing. She heads into the master closet We couldn’t explain how she knew…it is the air pressure then!


  3. Anita D'Amato says:

    Thank you for the informative article. My puppy is only 6 months old and this will be her first 4th of July so I do not know what her reaction will be but if necessary, I am now armed with the information for the next 4th or similar occasion. I wish I could afford your program but right now I can not. I am seeking employment and when I am financially able will look into it with gusto.


    Minette Reply:

    You can use our blog as a free training tool, all the articles are free and you can search them for whatever you desire


  4. Pat France says:

    I have a doggie bed and breakfast. I care for only one dog at a time…you know, all those spoiled little one’s out there!
    One dog I had was terrified of thunder and fireworks. She would jump into the bathtub and shake like a leaf! But that was her comfort zone. I was given meds to give to her if she seemed overwhelmed. Since their ears are so sensitive, I can imagine the thunder and fireworks are terribly loud and scary!


  5. Eileen says:

    I did notice that when I watched a movie, the popping sounds of (illegal) fireworks did not bother her. When the movie ended, she got worried.


  6. Tracy says:

    Hi I purchased a CD that has different noises that dogs come across. One “tune” is different fireworks going off. I play it low just now but will increase the volume gradually. I give my dog tasty treats to desensitise her with the hope that come 5 November the noise is bearable and does not stress her out.


  7. Renata says:

    My dog would be terrified at thunderstorms and fireworks. We established a safe place in my closet, mattress, pillows, blankets,(for me!) and a battery candle for some light. She headed in whenever she was afraid but we struggled to keep her comforted. Medicated her for two years during rainy season in Florida and that helped her fears and calmed her significantly. Unfortunately she hated the effects of the drug and was very aware that she was being medicated. She became became tense and cranky. This year I have stopped the medication and give her a St. John’s Wort morning and afternoon. This works wonderfully. She is happy, no side effects and settles in the closet by herself. We also use a Sleep Bug app which has various sounds to cover the thunder. She is not over her fears but she is much improved. We also sound proofed the window and sound proof the door for fireworks.


  8. Ginger says:

    Both my 3-yr old Maltese mixes get horribly car sick. I have given them each a Benedryl about 1/2 hour before driving. If they have not eaten, it works pretty good SOMEtimes! Also there is a Rx — Cerenia — given 2 hrs before travel that also works SOMEtimes if they haven’t eaten! It’s never certain and I always put towels on the back seat and floor of the vehicle. Sure takes the fun out of “going buy-buy in thecar”! They miss out on so much fun & going to the vet or groomer is traumatic. I now have a mobile groomer!!

    If anyone else has a solution I would love to hear it!!


  9. Janet Weiant says:



  10. dog mom says:

    I had a dog who was great in the car but at exactly an hour would stand up and start throwing up. The vet put her on a med like Dramamine. I seem to remember I gave her the lower end of the prescribed dosage and she zonked out and never got sick. Ginger also settles tummies for people, not sure if that would work or be safe for dogs. Good luck


  11. EMAT says:

    If your dog gets car sick I suggest that you determine a short distance your dog can travel without getting sick. While on an empty stomach, practice this distance daily while keeping the dog comforted or occupeid with a delicious chew. If you can, secure him in a soft nylon crate that is strapped to the seat by seatbelt. If your dog is young or small enough, have a passenger hold him gently letting him burry his face in a human lap or neck. As the dog (and you) experiences success, you can gradually add a little more length to the trip. Hopefully, your dog will eventually become a happy and reliable traveler. Best wishes.


  12. Diane Kennedy says:

    I had a doberman who got car sick. I gave her motion sickness pills. After 1 times she seemed to have grown out of it. Good Luck


  13. Judiy says:

    This article is so ironic. We had a storm and fireworks last night and my girl was scared. She was up in bed with me trying to get through the wall. I then remembered the closet from my previous dog. I opened up the door and made room for her and in she went and stayed until the fireworks were over. I have to get her ready for tonight again. Thanks for the article.


  14. Francisca Beaudoux says:

    The product called: “@-Ease” from Petzlife seems to help my dogs.
    Natural ingredients that helps to calm them down. Also a thundershirt helps.
    They are pricy, but when you’re handy with the sewing machine, you can make one yourself out of stretchy cotton.


  15. Francisca Beaudoux says:

    Research homeopathic remedies.


  16. Patty Hamm says:

    My dog is TERRIFIED of riding in the car. I’ve tried pheremone sprays, thunder shirts, offering treats while the car is parked, engine off. Nothing seems to work. Any fool-proof ideas? We adopted her at 2 years and she was already this way.


    Minette Reply:

    Search for my article on desensitization, there is a search bar at the top of the page. You can also search for articles on car sickness

    And, then you have to try different methods until you find something that works. I always feed my dogs in a car that is not moving, then work up to just going around the block or to get them a drive in burger somewhere or a short trip to the park…


  17. Bob bricker says:

    How 2 get our dogs from jumping on people charging the door and walking w/o a pinch collar


    Minette Reply:

    Search my articles for leash manners and jumping


  18. Denise says:

    Re: car sickness

    We recently drove from Florida to Michigan with our then 8 month old mini labradoodle. We got him a booster/car seat that is secured with the seatbelt. It has a strap that we hook to his harness so he doesn’t become a projectile. We also heard from other dog owners that dogs who can’t comfortably see out the windows have a tendency to get motion sickness. We had an uneventful 22 hour car ride. He slept most of the time!


  19. Linda Hoffecker says:

    I can’t understand why you singled out classical music to exclude when you are telling us to crank up the music.. There are a lot of classical pieces that are loud with a lot of booms.. What about the War of 1812 Overture? Personally, I do not like a loud environment but am not afraid of thunder or noises, they are just annoying to me.. If I had to turn up the music so loud that it drowned out the thunder and gunshots, I’d be bonkers.. But, whatever works as long as it doesn’t hurt your dog’s ears on a long term basis rather than the occasional bang or boom. Some dogs are gun shy and always will be…That’s life, you just don’t baby them when they whine, pant, drool.. Use a valium or some such tranquilzer even if you don’t like ‘drugs’ which I personally don’t like but there are also some homeopathic things you can use to calm an animal…..


    Minette Reply:

    wow, there seems to be a lot of anger here. I leave out classical because I don’t listen to it. If you listen to it all of the time, then it may be a good conditioned relaxer for your dog. Although I do think that many are not as loud as other forms of music.

    I would crank my music or TV as loud as needed to help my dog not suffer from a panic attack.

    I don’t baby my dogs, but I also don’t want them to hurl themselves out of windows, or eat through metal cages in an attempt to get away and in their minds save their life.

    I also know that loud noises can HURT dogs physically, so I keep that in mind when I am considering drowning out the noises that hurt.


  20. GinniS says:

    Another trick is to put just a drop of lavender essential oil on you dog’s collar under his chin. It has wonderful calming properties and by putting it on the collar, there isn’t a danger of an allergic skin reaction.


  21. Gale says:

    We had a standard poodle who always got car sick. Nothing worked until we went to our local Health Food Store. The owner suggested we give her a ginger tablet about one half hour before leaving home. It worked great and she then loved to travel without the stress of getting sick. Good Luck!


  22. Linda says:

    One of my dogs is a one year old Havanese. I’ve had 10 dogs over the years and this is the first one to get car sick. I tried many things and finally found Meclizine. It is a human motion sickness over the counter med. I got the chewable ones and he takes it fine. I checked with my vet, of course and he said it was a good idea. It lasts all day and doesn’t make him sleepy or any other side effects. My Havanese only weighs 12 pounds and I give him 1/2 of a 25 mg tab. I never needed it in any of my big dogs so you’d have to check on a dose. Good luck but I am confident it will work for your dog. One dose lasts all day.


    Minette Reply:

    Before anyone gives anything specific, they need to check with their vet for safety and dosage for their specific pet.


  23. judy says:

    I had a whippet – terrified of the car sick as can be every time I put her in the car. I decided to fix this once and for all so started leaving car door open and just sitting her in car for a few minutes puting treats in there so she would jump in and familiarise herself with the car. Then after a week I put her on the front passenger seat on a towel so if she was sick we were covered took her for a slow drive on a farily bumpy road but with my hand on her stroking her and talking gently to her and we have never looked back. Now she lies on the back seat and we travel for miles and she is fine – but I notice she never sits up and looks out the windows – she is content to lie down.


  24. Tam says:

    You could try pure peppermint essential oil. Therapeutic grade is best. It has helped me with that problem. I normally inhale it while in the car. I would suggest you diffuse it in your home before the car trip. Then put a drop on cotton ball & put in car vent so your dog can inhale it. It is strong so don’t touch it on his face or body. If you need help finding the right oil I can help.


  25. sue says:

    I have noticed that keeping dogs on the floor of the car helps with motion sickness ….Or in a carrier/crate with the opening facing the front of the car so they can see me, and get the air blowing at them from the vents, but no side vision.. As a child, sitting in the back seat, I was always carsick. Found out it was from looking out the side window, which makes objects outside go by doubly fast!


  26. Andrea says:

    I do not mean to be contrary, but we play classical music for our dogs whenever we leave them at home by themselves. We put them in their crates and turn on the Music Choice channel to Light Classical. It’s what you might call easy listening classical. I have read that classical music is very soothing to animals, although I cannot recall the name of the article or when I read it. The station plays a lot of Baroque and Romantic era pieces which are very orderly and predictable in their composition and for the most part don’t have a lot of loud sudden noises any more so than other music genres. Bach’s music in particular has been studied for it’s mathematical clarity and perfection which appeal to a dog’s need for routine and order. I’m by no means slamming other types of music because I listen to rock and country as well, but I’m not really sure how some of the cacophony that I hear on the radio can be considered soothing. Our dogs are so conditioned to the music that now when we put the channel on and they hear it, they go over and walk right into their crates! Just sayin’!


    Minette Reply:

    I think your comment about conditioning is right.

    It is all about what they are used to.

    I’m about to write an article about it… but I think it is what the dog is used to. If you listen to Megadeath 99% of the time when you are with the dog and having fun… well then chances are Megadeath will be soothing for your dog.


  27. Minette says:

    They probably will grow out of it, try opening the window a crack, trying seat belts or laying on the floor board.

    As far as microchipping it is pretty painful, but it is over pretty quick. It is best if they are anesthetized so they don’t jerk back on the needle.


  28. Anita D'Amato says:

    too late for you but may help others. I had my 5 month old microchipped at the same time she was spayed. This way she was already under anesthesia and there was no pain. Also it saved me money because I did not have to have a second procedure requiring anesthesia.


  29. Gina says:

    We have a Yorkie that used to get car sick and shake with fear in the car. The whole trip she would be cowering down and we’d keep the car covered with towels, what a nasty mess. We stopped the problem by taking her on little short trips (to the corner store and back) every day and rewarding her when we returned so she knew it was a happy time. It worked like a charm and she can now take very long road trips without issue. Most of the time standing on the console so can see everything.


    Minette Reply:

    My only contrary advice is to reward WHILE out so that coming home is not the reward. they already like being home 😉 That is why I go get a burger or something really special


  30. Sylvia says:

    My Lhasa Apso would get car sick if I let her ride on the floor. I put her on the passenger seat next to me (driving) and clipped her harness to the seat belt so she couldn’t get down. Then I turned the A/C vents where they would blow cool air in her direction; not directly into her face. That worked! But as soon as she got in the floor, the vomiting started again. She was an adult dog when I rescued her so there was no chance of her growing out of it. This worked for me and DeDe, hope it will help you too!


  31. Karen says:

    How much St. John’s Wort do you give her? My beagle, Sampson, is terrified of thunder and fireworks! We are trying a gel med. from vet. Not seeing much difference. Would like to try this possibly. Thanks!


    Minette Reply:

    Ive never administered that, I would check with your vet or try alprazolam also a prescription medication.


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