Fireworks: How to Keep Dogs Calm
The Fourth of July is quickly approaching which means celebrating America's independence with family and friends, food and fireworks. Although this can be a fun time for many, some people (and their dogs) have a hard time handling the excitement - especially the sight and sound of fireworks. Some pets, such as hunting dogs, have no problem if they’ve been desensitized or become accustomed to the sounds and smells of hunting rifles and gun powder. However, most dogs are not used to these things, which can make Independence Day a particularly stressful holiday for dogs and their owners.
Behavior: It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises. The sounds trigger their nervous systems, and they can become anxious or frightened. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct. More pets are known to run away on the Fourth of July than any other day, so taking extra steps to ensure their safety is crucial. Keeping a keen eye on your dog during the ruckus and making sure they are wearing proper identification eases some of the stress during the action. Also, making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day is important, as it will calm their nerves as the day comes to an end.
Protection: Remember that bringing dogs to a fireworks show is never a good idea. Keeping your dogs inside during fireworks, preferably with human companionship, ensures their feelings of security. If it's hot out, preserving them in air conditioning is a smart idea. Providing a safe place indoors for your dogs to hideaway like a small enclosed area, such as a crate gives them a comfortable area to relax. Make sure to keep the windows and curtains closed if possible. Also covering the crate or lowering the blinds can be helpful, as well as removing visual stimulation to keep dogs calm.
Sound Therapy: To calm dogs, use sensory enrichment such as sound therapy. The psychoacoustically designed music of Through a Dog's Ear has been particularly designed to lower canine anxiety and has been effectively used by dog lovers around the world. It is most beneficial to first play the music well before the fireworks start, when the dog is already feeling peaceful and relaxed. They will begin to associate the music with being calm and content. Then play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime. The music doesn’t need to be loud to be effective, as it has been clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Listen to free sound samples.
Tactile: There are a few canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs. Our favorite is the Thundershirt, which is a wrap for your dog that provides tender, continuous pressure. Their website reports that over 85% of Thundershirt users see remarkable recovery in noise anxiety symptoms. Most dogs respond with the very first usage; some need 2-3 usages before showing noteworthy improvement.
Treat: Another good idea is leaving your dog something fun to do – like snacking on a frozen Kong filled with their favorite treats to also help in times of fear or anxiety. Pet Naturals® sell Calming Treats, which can help when dogs cannot adapt to stress, which leads to anxiety, nervousness, hyperactivity, excess barking, abnormal urine marking, trembling or shivering, and destructive or aggressive behavior. These treats can help dogs relax and handle loud noises and other stressful situations more effectively. Calming is an advanced formula that contains a combination of ingredients not found in other calming formulas, such as L-Theanine (Suntheanine® brand), and Thiamine (Vitamin B1), all of which support neurotransmitter balance and relaxation to address stress-related behavior.
Communication: If you are going to be with your dog during the fireworks, sending a calming message that they have nothing to worry about will also help them to relax. While humans communicate with words, dogs communicate with energy, and will look to their leader for indicators on how they should behave. If you’re not making a big deal or showing excitement about the fireworks, they will learn to be less worked up as well.
Most importantly, don’t think of this as your dog missing out on a great, fun time. Your dog won’t know what they're missing, and would most likely prefer to be napping anyway. You’re being a good pack leader by not making them vulnerable to a situation that will trigger their flight instinct in a negative way. When the booms and bangs of Independence Day are over, your dog will be grateful to you for having made it a less stressful experience! Remember that just because your dog doesn't enjoy the fireworks, doesn't mean you can't either. Once your pets are taken care of, sit back, relax and have a happy Fourth!
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- Jeff Vander Berg