Fireworks can be so much fun for us humans but most dogs don’t feel the same way (unless your dog is a hunting dog who is familiarized with the sounds and smells of rifles and gun powder), the loud sounds, and smells and bright lights can leave your four-legged friend to feel stressed, fearful, and disoriented. Think this sounds a bit exaggerated? Consider these facts:
At least 40% of dogs experience noise anxiety;
30% of all ‘lost’ animals occur on the evening of July 4th;
July 3rd is the most swamped day of the year for vet clinics with clients coming in to get drugs for their dogs;
July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters than any other day of the year.
The good news is that there are safe and caring ways for you to help your dog get through the festivities:
Desensitization: you can begin getting your dog used to the sounds. Play a video or recording of the sound of fireworks and pair them with things your dog likes such as meals, treats or cuddles. Try Through a Dog's Ear. It is designed to reduce canine anxiety. There is also the Canine Noise Phobia series (CNP). It consists of four CD’s, each with a different sound: Fireworks, Thunderstorms, City Sounds, and Calming.
Exercise: take your dog out for a run in the morning, if possible, take him/her for a walk during the day and before the fireworks start. It is wise to exercise your dog, he/she will feel more tired later in the evening and will be calmer.
Prep your home: some dogs go crazy when they hear the sound of the fireworks and even though you can’t control the outside noise, you can make arrangements to have your dog feeling less stressed and wanting to scape. Keep the windows closed and the curtains down, the bright colors coming from outside can excite your dog even more and make him/her nervous. If it is hot, turn on the air conditioning, it will make your dog feel comfortable and it might help reduce the outside noise. Turning the TV or radio on can also help reduce the noise coming from outside.
Safe den: dogs tend to pick a small and hidden space to go to when they get scared. A crate (if your dog is used to it), a cardboard box in their favorite room, or even just a bed sheet draped over the sofa can immensely help. Don’t push your dog past his/her comfort zone. If he/she chooses to stay hidden, let it be, forcing out can increase fear and a frightened dog may become aggressive if pushed past its comfort level.
Tag it up: dogs tend to ‘play Houdini’ around the 4th of July. Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags. Despite your best efforts, you can’t predict every scenario that might occur, so in case your dog gets lost, he/she has a better chance to return home safe.
Stay calm: your dog looks to you for pretty much everything! So watch your body language,stay calm and at ease, if you send signs of stress your dog will pick up on your abnormal behavior, show them that there is nothing to be afraid of.
And most importantly, don’t compare your dog to a child, thinking he/she might be missing out on the fun time. That’s human guilt. You are being a conscious dog parent by not exposing your dog to a situation he/she might not react in a positive way. When all the bright lights that comes with booms and bangs are over, your dog will be grateful for having made it a less stressful experience, thanks to YOU!