Loud noises and sounds can really freak dogs out, and a fireworks show is probably the worst noise monster a fearful dog can face. If your dog is fearful of noises, they may try to crawl into the tightest space in your house. They also may pace and pant. My dog, Kota, will pace and then crawl into the space in our bedroom between the bed and the wall. It breaks my heart every time. We live close to a gun club, but she sure knows the difference between 4th of July blasts and practice firing at the shooting range. If you know a night of fireworks is coming up, here are some ways to help your dog stay a little more comfortable.
1. Plan Ahead
It’s a good idea to check for the dates of community fireworks displays during celebratory seasons, and make sure your dog’s collar ID and microchip registration are up to date. Boston Central will give you a list of towns with their dates for fireworks so be sure to check out the cities and towns close to you.
2. Set Up A Quiet Safe Space
Set up a quiet place in your home where your dog is comfortable and the sound of fireworks is muffled, like a finished basement or an internal room like a walk-in closet. We have a closet without a door in our bedroom that we set up for our dog, Kota, with her bed (I admit, it looks pretty comfy!). Spend time with your dog there, with toys and treats, well before fireworks season begins. I like to have some high value food/treats available for Kota, like leftover grilled steak tips or pulled pork. When she was younger and not on a special diet, I would make some frozen Kongs ahead of time filled with yogurt, peanut butter and banana. If you don’t have Kongs, you can freeze an ice cube tray full of these and have handy during the challenging span of days.
3. Desensitize Your Dog
Play a recording of fireworks at a very low level for short periods, multiple times a day, and reward calm behavior with treats. If your dog is extremely fearful of noises, before taking this step, think about consulting an experienced dog behaviorist for expert guidance. (I have suggestions for you at the end of this post).
4. Long Walk, Run or Activity Before Dark
A happily tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Exercise your pup with fun play or a long walk so they are ready to nap when night falls. Make sure their collar or harness is slip-proof, because some people celebrate with firecrackers and other noisemakers before darkness falls. We want to do everything possible to keep our dogs safe. What is your dog is older and doesn’t exercise as much? Mental stimulation with puzzles is a great option.
5. Close Windows and Curtains
Keeping the windows and curtains closed helps to muffle the sound and block out any flashes of light that might startle your dog.
6. Turn on TV, Music, or White Noise
Provide familiar, alternate sounds for your dog to hear. The key is to make sure whatever you use is already familiar to your dog – even fans can be anxiety-causing if they are fired up without warning. We have a sound machine that plays everything from white noise to the pitter patter of rain drops. Our sound machine that we have been using for the past few years if the Rohm portable. As for music, Kota is a big fan of Country, with Christ Stapleton being a favorite of hers. We usually have the TV streaming with country music throughout the days.
7. Anxiety Wraps
8. Gently Distract
Turn those fireworks into background chatter by engaging in normal fun activities like playing with a toy, running through training exercises, or inviting your dog on the couch for a movie night. But please don’t pull your dog out from a safe space they have chosen and force your dog to play if they would rather hide.
9. Consult a Professional
Is your dog’s quality of life suffering, or are they so panicked they could injure themselves, or you, while trying to escape? Dog trainers, dog behaviorists, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists can offer a range of options from counter-conditioning to medication. Here are two that I highly recommend:
- Dr. Michelle Posage (Veterinary Behaviorist) – you might be on a waitlist, so please contact her sooner rather than later. She is located in the Merrimack Valley and I referred many dogs to her when I used to teach dog training classes.
- Dr. Martha Lindsey (Alternative Veterinary Services LLC) – nutritional response testing, Acupuncture, and Homeopathy – We’ve been taking Kota here for the past 3 years and Dr. Martha is amazing! She’s your “go-to” for a calming remedy for your dog.
Hope these tips are helpful to you! Please try not to wait until the last minute. Keep your dog safe and happy this July 4th holiday.
This post is part of a pet photographer’s blog circle. Click on the link at the end of each post to follow along. Next up Dallas Dog Photographer Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography shares three simple things you can do to help your pup survive the fourth of July.
Enjoy your July 4th holiday!!!