7/1/2018 - By Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA
Many dogs have some level of anxiety or fear when it comes to fireworks. Noise sensitivity can vary significantly by breed, age, or exposure to loud noises as a puppy. There are some easy steps you can take to help your dog feel more at ease during July 4th celebrations.
First and foremost: Make sure your dog is wearing current ID tags. Frightened dogs often run and hide when hearing loud noises. In the US, more dogs are reported lost around July 4th, then at any other time of the year. It’s impossible to predict when your neighbors may be using fireworks, so also avoid any off-leash activities on and around the 4th.
Other tips for keeping your dog safe and happy:
Prior to the fireworks:
- I’m a huge fan of conditioning your dog to the sound of fireworks - but this is something you will need to work on several weeks or months ahead. You can do this by playing videos or recordings of fireworks at a low sound level and rewarding your dog when he remains calm during the sounds. Over time, slowly increase the volume, and continue rewarding calm behavior, until they are no longer frightened. Although this may not work with every dog, some learn to accept loud noises, and may even be excited about the reward they get after the big boom!
- Exercise can help ease anxiety and aid in relaxation. Take your dog for a long walk early in the day, well before holiday festivities begin.
- If your dog has a history of extreme anxiety with loud noises, and nothing else has helped, talk to your vet about providing a mild sedative. Some pet parents have had success with thunder shirts or natural calming agents, such as pheromones, essential oils, melatonin, and CBD.
- Resist the impulse to take your dog with you to celebrations, especially if there will be fireworks. Your dog will be safer and happier at home - but don’t leave a nervous dog unattended - find a sitter who can stay with your pet in your home or theirs.
- Keep your pups indoors, preferably in an interior room or in the basement. This helps reduce their exposure to the sounds and prevents them from running away if they do get frightened. Be especially careful as you and your guests enter/exit your home - a frightened dog may bolt through the open door.
- Keep doors and windows closed. Window and door screens will not hold a frightened dog - they may jump right through or push the screen out.
- If your dog is crate-trained, be sure the crate is accessible as a safe retreat. If your pet feels safe hiding in his crate or under the bed, don’t force him out, as this may cause more stress and anxiety.
- Turn on a radio or TV to help provide white noise and distraction, and close the curtains or blinds, so your dog won’t notice the flashing lights.
It’s a great time to pull out a durable chew toy stuffed with a favorite food or treat, or a puzzle-type treat dispenser to help keep their mind engaged.