FIREWORKS: 6 Ways To Help Your Dog
Fireworks! BOOM! It might be fun for a lot of people but a lot of dogs are very afraid of them. Some times a dog can quickly sensitize to the sound of fireworks and start having all sorts of new fears. For example: now any bang, any object falling, door shutting can become a source of fear. I cannot emphasize this enough: sound phobia generalizes quickly and soon it becomes a BIG problem. Some dogs that had a traumatic night with fireworks can also develop separation anxiety.
PREVENTION IS YOUR BEST ROUTE. Ideally you can travel to a location where there are not many of them. Mark holidays, games, etc on your calendar so you can know when fireworks might happen. Or you can board your dog in a location where they won’t experience those sounds. That’s what I do every year with my dog. If it’s just a game and I know fireworks will only last 1 hour, I usually put her in my car and drive up to the mountains or a neighborhood that is super quiet where we won’t experience any. Podcasts are my friend.
Let’s say this is not in the realm of things you can do. How can you still help them if you can’t go away?
1) Prep them with some non-arousing exercise
Make sure they have non-arousing exercise on the week that precedes booming. Think walks on the forest kind of exercise: tiring but enriching without being over arousing! Careful that no one is booming near the parks on that preceding week, that can suddenly scare your dog and he might run away if off leash.
2) Sound proof your home as much as you can
If you can’t board your dog for these days in a place far away from fireworks, make your house as much as sound proof as you can:
washer, dryer, dishwasher, air filters all ON for the whole event!
close all doors and windows!
youtube with the following links on playing at the same time on your computer speakers (not cellphone):
white noise machine http://a.co/d/8fVhP5c (I have this one)
3) Some gear for your dog
Not all of them, but some dogs benefit from ear muffs like the one picture. Use vet wrap to keep them in place. Some owners report their dogs settle better wearing a thundershirt. My dog likes her ear muffs but not the thundershirt, so experiment what seems to work for your dog.
4) Pharmaceutical help
A lot of dogs go trough fireworks without pharmaceutical help and end up becoming phobic. Event drugs can help IMMENSELY your dog endure one of the worst days of their lives.
Please consider talking to your vet to check what is the best option for your dog. Personally, my dog takes Clonidine. Friends had good luck with other drugs too like Sileo, Alprazolam, and Trazodone. Talk to your vet to see what will work well for your dog! Just make sure NOT to use Acepeomazine.
Have amazing food around for your dog. Bully sticks, stuffed kongs, peanut butter, cheese! Don’t be afraid to use all the arsenal of fascinating food. If you dog is too afraid to eat, you know s/he is already very sensitized to booms. Giving a piece of cheese after every boom helps a few dogs but be aware that for most dogs the fireworks volume is so high that your dog might just be too scared to learn new associations and become calmer. Fireworks involve a lot of senses: the sounds of the booms, the lights, the smell of smoke, the whole house that might shake!
6) COmfort your dog!
Please do comfort your dog if he wants to be near you, he is scared and needs your help.
Sound phobia has a big genetic component and sometimes it might only appear later in life, so don’t assume your dog will be always ok. Sound phobias generalize very fast to other fears, so please consider the above steps before you have sound phobic dog! I don’t like to use scare tactics, but I really believe for fear of sounds you have to be very aware of the consequences of exposing your dog to traumatic events like that, hence this post!