Help Your Dog (or cat) Stay Worry-free During Fireworks this holiday season
Loud noises and sounds can really freak dogs out, and a fireworks show is probably the worst noise monster a fearful dog can face. You know your dog best and if they get anxious around loud noises chances are fireworks around the 4th won’t be a fun time for them. If you know a night of fireworks is coming up, here are some ways to help your dog stay a little more comfortable, because lets face i furry friends and fireworks don’t tend to mix well.
Here are a few tips that might help
Plan ahead. It’s a good idea to check for the dates of community fireworks displays during celebratory seasons, and make sure your dog’s collar ID and microchip registration are up to date. For example July 3rd is Summer fete in Bloomington, many cities have their fireworks shows on different days. But lets face the “neighborhood” fireworks happen for at least a week before and after the 4th
Create distance. When you know a firework display is scheduled nearby, or you see your neighbors setting up for a display, ask a friend if you can bring your dog over for an evening chat or movie – unless your dog finds trips even more stressful. If leaving is not an option or more stressful, making sure to be home and comforting your pet during these times is ideal
Set up a quiet safe space in your home where your dog is comfortable and the sound of fireworks is muffled, like a finished basement or an internal room like a walk-in closet. We always did our basement with my dog Rhett. Spend time with your dog there, with toys and treats, well before fireworks season begins. I like to watch a movie and have a white noise machine (highly recommend even if you dont have human babies)
Desensitize your dog by playing a recording of fireworks at a very low level for short periods, multiple times a day, and rewarding calm behavior with treats. If your dog is extremely fearful of noises, before taking this step, think about consulting an experienced dog behaviorist for expert guidance.
Go for a long walk well before dark. A happily tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Exercise your pup with fun play or a long walk so they are ready to nap when night falls. Make sure their collar or harness is slip-proof, because some people celebrate with firecrackers and other noisemakers before darkness falls. July is the top month for Pets to run away so it may seem silly doing extra precautions but you never know when someone nearby my blow up something. Better to be safe than sorry. Avoid bringing your dog out after it gets dark around the 4th of July
Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound and block out flashes of light. we have black out curtains in our bedroom which helps, but sometimes these things are unavoidable.
Turn on the TV, music, or white noise like a fan, to provide a familiar, alternate sound. Make sure whatever you use is already familiar to your dog – even fans can be anxiety-causing if they are fired up without warning. Do you have google home? We play “soothing music for dogs” on Pandora whenever we leave the house. Easy command and its hours of soothing music.
Try an anxiety wrap. Soft, stretchy jackets and vests built specifically for a dog’s shape are reported to be effective at reducing anxiety. I suggest you slowly introduce your dog to their coat well before fireworks season descends. You’d want to start introducing this now. My dogs have never needed something like the thunder shirt but when we first got our cat it was the only thing that chilled him out.
Don’t fuss over your dog. I know it’s hard not to be upset when you see your dog distressed, especially when you know they are safe. However, if you frantically console them, or make angry comments about inconsiderate neighbors, your distress or anger can strengthen your dog’s belief that something is wrong. You can certainly sooth your dog, but do so in a calm, reassuring, and positive manner. Acting normal during stressful times is never easy (especially for me) but it definitely helps
Gently distract your dog. Turn those fireworks into background chatter by engaging in normal fun activities like playing with a toy, running through training exercises, or inviting your dog on the couch for a movie night. I personally love a whole house recall game. One parent on one side of the house with treats and you on the other, calling them back and forth with lots of praise and treats, tires them out, training and distraction (triple win!). But don’t pull your dog out from a safe space they have chosen and force your dog to play if they would rather hide.
Consult a professional. Is your dog’s quality of life suffering, or are they so panicked they could injure themselves, or you, while trying to escape? Dog trainers, dog behaviorists, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists can offer a range of options from counter-conditioning to medication.
Make the 4th of July time fun for everyone by advocating for your pets.
Are you bummed you might miss out on some fun photos from missing fireworks? Furry friends and fireworks might not mix but you can make your own light show fun on another night. Bonus is that its silent! You just need a DSLR, tripod and some glow sticks. Extra set of hands is helpful too! camera on tripod on Bulb mode or long exposure and a timer. Move in front of the camera with your glow sticks the more fluid motion the better. The darker the area around you the better. Have fun and be sure to share what you create!