It’s summer! It’s a time for backyard barbecues, hanging out by the pool, and fireworks. So many fireworks. While some people look forward all year to 4th of July fireworks, many dog owners find themselves dreading Independence Day because of the anxiety the fireworks will cause their dogs. Did you know that more dogs run away on the 4th of July than any other day? Why are they so afraid? And how can you help them to relax? We’ve got some insight into the problem with fireworks, along with some pet safety tips for protecting your dog’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Why do dogs fear fireworks? In general, fireworks are an unfamiliar experience. They make loud noises, cause light to flash, and create strange smells in the atmosphere. This is so unsettling to some dogs that they may shake, shiver, tremble, howl, bark, or try to find a safe place to hide. If your dog has not yet experienced fireworks, and you’re not sure how he or she will react, think about the response to thunderstorms. Dogs who get nervous during thunderstorms are more likely to be frantic when fireworks are exploding in the night sky. Fortunately, if you have a dog who is sensitive to these events, there are some steps you can take to help your pet stay calm.
- Stay well away from fireworks. There’s no reason to expose your dogs to stress unnecessarily, so don’t take them to fireworks shows. In fact, on nights when fireworks will be going off, keep your dogs inside so they will feel safe and secure.
- Keep your pet’s ID up to date. This is one of the most important pet safety tips we can offer. Get your dogs microchipped, make sure they’re wearing collars with current ID tags, and consider a GPS device. Dogs can get spooked by fireworks and run off, but taking these measures can help boost their chances of a safe return.
- Make your home an oasis of calm for your dogs. Before the fireworks start, create a den for your dog, to give a feeling of safety. Dogs are naturally going to seek out a cave in which to hide when things are stressful, and this may be a crate or just some space in a quiet area where they can’t see or hear the fireworks. Equip this safe space with your dog’s favorite things, like toys, blankets, and treats.
- Create some noise. You can mask the sounds of the fireworks by turning on the television or the radio, or by running a fan. Look for music that is reputed to have a calming effect on dogs, like “Through a Dog’s Ear,” a compilation of classical music that has been shown to comfort anxious dogs.
- Try not to leave your dog alone. Speaking of comforting anxious dogs, make sure someone is with your dog to do that when things get too scary. Pet your dog with long, firm, slow strokes, and speak in a calm, soothing, even tone. Be careful not to sound agitated. If you seem frantic, saying, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK” in a higher tone that usual, your dog may think that the danger is real. Try to show your pet that there is nothing to fear, by maintaining a calm and reassuring presence.
- Pre-game the fireworks with a walk. Well before the sun sets, when it is very unlikely that you will hear any loud sounds, take your dogs on a walk, making sure they are secured on leashes. A leash is a good safety measure to keep your dogs under control if something startles them.
- Try getting your dog used to fireworks ahead of time. You may be able to desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks by softly playing fireworks sounds until your dog gets used to them. Try feeding a special treat while you play a fireworks video, so that your dog associates the noises with something pleasant. Keep the volume low enough that your dog will notice it but will not be stressed by it. Increase the volume gradually, varying the source and the recording.
- Discuss your dog’s anxiety with your vet. Well in advance of the stressful event, talk to your vet about medication or other therapeutic treatments to help your pet. If you don’t want to go the route of prescription medication, you might consider CBD dog calming treats or a dog anxiety vest.
- Consider a trainer. If your dog is extremely fearful, a trainer or behavior consultant may be able to help. Start early, working to desensitize your dog well in advance of fireworks or another scary event.
You want to give your dogs the very best care, and no matter what kind of care your pet needs, Dr. Dave’s Doggy Daycare, Boarding, and Grooming is your one stop shop! Our staff full of pet lovers has extensive experience in the pet care industry, and we understand that your pets deserve the best of everything. If you don’t want your dog to be lonely while you’re away from home, our daycare services will provide socialization with other dogs and a staff that will pay special attention to your pet’s needs. If you need to go out of town, we will keep your dog safe and happy, and we have a certified veterinarian available 24/7 in case of health care issues. Does your dog need grooming? We’ll provide your pet with a spa day worthy of royalty. For more information about all the services we offer to dog lovers and their dogs, call 408-868-5910 in Saratoga, 408-791-2532 in Campbell, or contact us through our website.