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The 4th of July is coming…. are you prepared?
With summer comes most dog guardians' most dreaded day, the 4th of July. A day when we hunker down inside while our friends are off at BBQ’s and picnics and we are hiding with our dogs who are shaking in the tub while careless people set off fireworks all day and night? Is that just me?
This year is probably going to look a little different. The pandemic is still affecting most of the country and another peak looking imminent. It's unclear to me if there will be any sort of big firework shows in my area. This could truly be the best 4th of July ever for our noise sensitive dogs and humans with PTSD and trauma, at least this year will have that going for it!
We will still likely have individuals setting off random bangs and booms all summer, and that can still be very scary for some dogs. Here are some tips to help you prepare for summer fireworks, large or small. These same recommendation can be applied to Thunderstorms - though many dogs can sense those coming long before the noise starts.
But summer isn’t just fireworks, depending on where you live this season often brings storms and for many dogs who fear loud noises, thunder can be very scary! Luckily most of the same protocols and steps can be taken for both!
Identification Is a Must
More dogs are lost on than 4th of July than any other day of the year. While this year may look and sound a little different, it is still important that your dog is always wearing up to date identification tags just in case. Consider having ID on when in the yard as well just in case your dog gets spooked and slips out, you never know when a neighbor may decide its time for a firecracker!
If your pet isn’t microchipped, now is the time! Microchips help thousands of lots dogs get back home every year! More on microchipping from Home Again
Talk to your Vet
If you have a dog who is suffering from moderate to extreme noise sensitivity consider talking to your vet to see if they suggest a medication that may help.
Dogs who are noise sensitive may display one or many of the following behaviors when in the presence of loud noises: panting, pacing, drooling, trembling; hiding; trying to escape; anorexia; excessive licking.
These dogs may experience this during such occurrences as thunderstorms and fireworks or when construction is happening near by.
There are several medications that veterinarians may recommend for noise sensitivity.
Natural Stress relief
If you don’t think your dog needs medication, there are products on the market that are all natural but claim to relieve stress for these types of events. Please note that I am not personally recommending any of the following, just listing options to explore. I would also recommend speaking to your vet before using these as well.
Adaptil Dog Appeasing Pheromone : Helps to prevent and reduce stress in dogs. Comes in a collar, spray and diffuser. Can take up to 30 days to be effective.
VetriScience Composure : Supports balanced behavior in dogs and cats
CBD: Depending on where you live, CBD for dogs is becoming more popular. There is little research to indicate what CBD is truly effective for, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support that it may help with anxiety and pain in dogs. Do your research first and talk to your vet.
Changing Emotions around Fireworks
There are some fairly simple steps you can take to help change the way your dog feels when they hear the sounds of fireworks. This process is called counter conditioning. Right now, when your dog hears the firework, feels the rumbling, it causes a negative emotional response. They may feel confused, anxious and afraid. We want to help them feel more confident and comfortable, maybe neutral about the fireworks. Most dogs won’t ever love the sounds but if they always predict something good, then you dog may come to appreciate the booms a little more.
The video included with this post will show what I’m explaining here. These are the general steps I recommend.
To do this you want to pair the sound and feeling of fireworks with something your dog really enjoys. But at first, let's start with really quiet fireworks. I’m going to include some links to youtube videos of fireworks below.
They also have others for thunderstorms , puppies and general relaxation!
Whichever you decide here are some simple steps:
- Start with the sound at a low volume, but loud enough your dog can hear. Remember they have much better hearing than you do!
- While sound is playing engage your dog in a fun game or provide long lasting chew toy or food enrichment toy.
- As they remain engaged slowly raise the volume of the sounds. If at any point your dog becomes focused on the sound for more than a few seconds and cannot disengage, the sounds is likely too high, lower it or stop.
- Keep sessions short, under 5-10 minutes at a time.
- If your dog is responding well, multiple sessions a day may be appropriate.
Day of the Fireworks - Plan ahead!
When it comes to the day of the large firework displays, be sure you are prepped and ready!
Walk / Play outside early in day: If you know that there are likely to be booms, pops and bangs throughout the day be sure to get your dog plenty of exercise early so that you don’t need to risk being outside as people begin to set off their own fireworks! Take your dog out to potty long before the sun goes down just in case the bigger fireworks start earlier than expected!
Keep dogs on leash: If you know your dog gets very frightened by loud noises, or if this is your first 4th of July with your dog, I suggest you keep them on leash when outside, even in the yard, as many pets attempt to flee at sudden loud sounds.
Keep dogs inside as much as possible: Have games and indoor exercise planned so you don’t need to go outside!
Mental enrichment: I would suggest that you prepare some special enrichment for your dog for the evening time to keep their minds off the sounds! This could be a special frozen treat, a long lasting bone or bully stick or some fun games to play with dinner. Mental enrichment can help a dog concentrate on things other than the scary sounds and vibrations coming from outside.
Drown out the sounds: Have music or TV playing, fans running, white noise machines! I usually plan to watch an action movie during the big show so there are lots of explosions on the TV that can interfere with the explosions outside. \
Close doors, blinds, curtains
Prepare a safe place for your dog: Despite it all some dogs need to find a safe place to hide while fireworks are going off. If this sounds like your dog have a dark safe place away from windows and doors prepared ahead of time. This could be a crate, closet, tub or just a cozy favorite spot. Allow your dog to hide if they need to. Comfort them if they want it - not all dogs will want you to be near them during this time. Some just want to be alone. Others will need reassurance that everything is going to be ok!
If you need additional help join me here in my community and I can put together a plan for you and your pup!