As dog owners throughout America and the world are all too aware, pets and fireworks get along about as well as snails and highways. The 4th of July is a day of celebration and joy for most people, but it is also a day that is deeply dreaded by many of our canine companions. Dogs are our best friends, but this holiday is just something that we will never agree on. The same applies to the second-worst day for dogs, which is New Year’s.
A dog’s disdain for fireworks and explosions is natural, of course, but different dogs will react in their own ways to the festivities. There are certainly a few pooches that actually don’t seem to care as much, most are uncomfortable, and some will be in a state of panic and shock, year after year. Luckily for your anxious four-legged family member, there are steps you can take to alleviate a lot of the stress if not eliminate it completely.
Reconciling Pets and Fireworks
It starts with the natural fear of unidentified loud noises, but your dog’s fear can become a deep-rooted anxiety and get worse over time if it’s left unchecked. The sooner you start taking your pup’s anxiety seriously and try to mend it, the better. There are two main ways to go about doing this. For one, you can focus on comforting your dog and doing what you can to minimize the effects of the fireworks. On the other hand, with enough ingenuity, it might also be possible to eliminate the fear itself, which is definitely the best possible outcome.
If your dog is terribly afraid, you must keep him company during the worst of the ordeal. Don’t leave him alone or put him in another room to just wait it out because that would be, for the lack of a better word, cruel. What you should do instead is hang out together casually and try to get your pet’s mind off the fireworks. You can do that with play or any other activity. The important thing is to keep him inside and in the company of his pack. Furthermore, you can take steps to reduce the noise by keeping the window closed with the blinds shut or curtains drawn. What can also help out a whole lot is using your TV or any kind of music device to drown out the outside noise.
Now, if you have done anything to train your dog before, you are probably aware of positive reinforcement, reward association, and the general way in which dogs are trained. You can thus take the trainer’s approach to mending the problem between your pets and fireworks. On the day of the celebration, when you are expecting the most intense pyrotechnical fusillade, you should prepare as many treats as possible and wait for it to begin.
When an intense barrage begins, do your best to get your dog excited with play or his toys, and start feeding him treats. It’s important to project positive energy and really move your dog to get excited. You won’t be doing this to distract him from the noise, though. The goal is to get your pet to associate fireworks with treats, fun, and positivity. If you persist and put some real ingenuity into it every time, your dog will slowly start understanding that there is nothing to fear. You will be at a significant advantage if your dog is still just a puppy because pups learn faster and what they learn now will be deeply imbedded later on.
Science Has an Answer Too
Although this should be your last resort, it’s worth mentioning that there are quite a few drugs such as mild sedatives out there on the market. These are made specifically to calm a dog down, and some will regulate blood pressure, heart rate and much else. Drugs should be used rarely, though, because your pet will slowly build a tolerance toward them over time, rendering them useless. There are many other potential side-effects, of course, and you should always consult your veterinarian thoroughly before giving your dog any meds. All in all, you have to be patient with your dog and understand his perspective. With enough perseverance, even pets and fireworks can be reconciled.
If your dog is frightened by fireworks, it is also likely frightened by thunderstorms! For more info on how to help your dog cope with this, check out our E-Book on Dog Fears: Your Dog and Thunderstorms!