It happens every year. As we approach the end of June, I start receiving frantic phone calls and emails from clients whose dogs are terrified of loud noises, so they are wondering what to do on the 4th of July. There are certainly no quick fixes for the problem of noise sensitivity, but there are some things you can do to ease your dog's anxiety and discomfort during fireworks.1. Don't get angry or frustrated. If your dog gets anxious, your frustration will just reinforce their anxiety. Be kind, supportive, and proactive--get them out of the situation as quickly and confidently as possible. They need to see that you aren't anxious or upset as well; you will get them to safety without panicking yourself.
2. If you know your dog is noise sensitive, just assume that fireworks displays, even in the distance, will be too much for them. Keep them indoors and use fans, TVs, stereos, white noise machines, etc. to help blot out the booming sounds. Close drapes and windows as well. Your dog will likely still be able to hear the fireworks, but they will be greatly muted by these actions easily taken by you.
3. If your dog is really panicky, get them into a bathroom and close the door. Bathrooms tend to be very well-insulated from sounds. Turn on the bathroom fan and sit with your dog if you like. Bring a book and just hang out.
4. Don't let your dog outside to go to the bathroom without wearing their collar, ID tags, and a leash. If they panic and get away from you, you want that collar and tags on them so that you will be quickly contacted when they are found. I've known more than one dog to panic and jump the fence in their yard without tags on the 4th of July. It goes without saying that having pets chipped is a lifesaver too if your dog gets loose and is picked up and taken to a local shelter or veterinary hospital.
5. While we only have a few days left until the 4th, you can also try some desensitization exercises with your dogs to prepare them, IF their anxiety is mild (desensitization exercises are unlikely to work on the profoundly anxious). This is particularly useful for new dog owners who have not gone through a holiday like the 4th of July with their pet previously and don't know if their animal will be sensitive to the lights/noises. Bring up the sound of fireworks on your computer, phone, or on the TV. Start at a very low volume and gradually increase the volume, helping your dog to see that this is no big deal. Use treats, toys, and fun distracting games to redirect them. Keep in mind that real fireworks are about sound AND lights, so these exercises really only work on the sound component unless you are using your TV and your dog actually pays attention to it!
6. You can certainly try a Thunder Shirt for your dog, although most people find that they have limited success with just using that alone. Same for DAP, dog appeasing pheromone, plug-ins and collars. These tools may be helpful in conjunction with the strategies outlined previously.
8. Probably the most important thing you can do is talk to your neighbors. Let them know that you have an anxious dog and enlist their help. If your immediate neighbors can resist the urge to set off fireworks, that will help your dog immensely. Unfortunately, even in counties where fireworks are illegal, you'll still will have people using them.
9. And finally, many people have had success giving their pets CBD based oils and treats to reduce anxiety and promote calmness. If you'd like to learn more about this holistic alternative, visit www.honestpaws.com.
Ozzie and I will be spending the 4th of July with my daughter and Westley, while Desi will be spending it at home, relaxing with dad. None of our collies care about fireworks; even Westley who doesn't like garbage truck sounds is fine with fireworks! Nonetheless, we will all be home enjoying the day off together.
As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me.