America is only a few weeks away from the fourth of July celebrations, and while most Americans love this holiday, the fireworks associated with our midsummer patriotic spectacle is no picnic for pets. If your dog spends late June and early July panicked by fireworks, then this article is for you.
Pets are very good at telling you when they are scared. They hide, cower, shake, pant, drool, have dilated pupils, and often seek comfort from you. Some dogs are destructive when they panic: digging, chewing on things or even themselves, or can put themselves in extreme danger by bolting, trying to run away from the sound. To prevent these problems, desensitize your pet to loud percussive noises by giving treats in a steady stream during fireworks.
This works best on an empty stomach, with a high value treat, like Life’s Abundance tasty rewards training treats, and by giving treats BEFORE your dog shows any signs of fear. You can switch things up by also offering a longer-lasting reward, like buffalo fillets or a bully stick.
Try this inside the house first so your dog isn’t flooded with frightening stimuli. Even better, start before firework season with a recording of firework sounds that you can play at a low volume that you slowly increase over time and remember, a frightened dog won’t take treats.
By doing this, your dog may even get happy and excited when she hears fireworks, knowing that treats are coming. This works best with puppies, but you can also do this with older dogs.
Make sure your pet is secured when you leave her alone during late June and early July. A lot of dogs end up in veterinary hospitals over the fourth for trauma, infectious diseases or trips to the pound that could have been avoided.
Keep your pet indoors during firework season, preferably in an inner, darkened room that is quiet. If you use a crate, then crate your dog when you are away. You can play music to help mask the sound of the fireworks, such as ‘through a dog’s ear’: music that is designed specifically to help calm your canine companion. It can be downloaded off of itunes.
Another good option for fearful canines is a thundershirt. This vest uses pressure to calm dogs, and works like a weighted vest that is used for children with autism. You can purchase thundershirts at a local petstore.
Some dogs are so terrified of fireworks, that veterinarian prescribed anti-anxiety medications, such as alprazolam, are warranted. Two herbal supplements: l-thianine (trade-name Anxitane) and Zylkene are also good options to explore, so ask your veterinarian.
Don’t baby your dog when she is acting fearful: it rewards and reinforces the behavior. Instead, use the techniques outlined above, and help your dog learn how to cope with loud noises.