The Fourth of July can be a scary time for you dog. Fireworks are a blast – literally! Because dogs can hear noises much better than humans can the loud boom of rockets bursting in air can be frightening to a dog that doesn’t know what these scary sounds are all about.
Rolan Tripp, D.V.M., founder of the Animal Behavior Network defines noise phobia, a common problem during Fourth of July, as “an excessive, unreasonable fear response to specific loud noises. It is more common in dogs than cats, and the most common noise phobias are to fireworks and thunder.”
You can help your scaredy dog survive the festivities with the following do’s and don’ts.
- Plan Ahead. Find out if anyone is doing pre-Fourth firework shows and on what nights. Ask your neighbors when they plan on shooting off fireworks.
For mild cases or as prevention to fireworks phobia, Tripp suggests what he calls a “Fireworks Party.” Starting a day or two before July 4, either fast or feed only ¼ of the early meal to your pet. Then at the first faint sound of fireworks, respond with a happy, “It’s a fireworks party!” Then offer a treat for your dog. From there on out, every boom triggers a “party snack” until the dog “happily” waits for the next boom. “The idea is to turn the fear into joy,” Tripp says.
- Talk to Your Veterinarian. Discuss medications that can ease you’re stressed out dog. Some dogs need a sedative to get through the night(s).
For moderate to severe cases, Tripp suggests medicating the pet for several hours on days when fireworks are expected. He recommends asking veterinarians about benzodiazepines, and strictly following your vet’s advice when medicating a pet.
- Test any medication. Whether it’s an OTC or one from your vet before the fireworks start so you know if they work properly and/or if you need to adjust the dosage.
- Identification. Make sure your dog has his ID tags on, in case he escapes and runs out of fear.
- Quiet Time. Have a “quiet place” set up. If she is crate trained, set up a crate with a cover or choose the quietest room in the house and set your dog up with blankets, chews, water, etc.
- White Noise. Have “white noise” like a fan, radio, and/or TV running to help drown out the fireworks.
“Owners must use common sense when they allow pets to join the festivities,” says Lorraine Corriveau, D.V.M., a wellness veterinarian at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “Owners can use simple tricks like putting cotton in their pets’ ears to muffle the sound.”
- Food and Water. Feed and potty your dog before the mayhem begins as they may not eat or go to the bathroom if they are stressed out later.
- Check In. Check in on your dog to make sure they are fine, especially if you medicated them.
- Take Your Dog to Watch Fireworks. Not only is it scary, it can cause hearing damage.
- Leave Your Dog Outside Unattended. Even in a secured yard, your dog could find a way to run off if the noise scares her.
- Expect Your Dog to Party. While your dog might enjoy hanging out with you on a normal day, don’t expect him to hang out all night at your noisy party with a bunch of people AND firework noises. Plan on giving your dog breaks throughout the night so they can relax.
- Medicate Your Dog and Leave them Alone in the House. If they have a reaction, it could be life-threatening.
- Expose your Puppy. Don’t introduce your young puppy to very loud fireworks assuming they will “just get used it.” A bad experience will make them hate it for the rest of their life. Instead, talk to a dog trainer about properly desensitizing a puppy to the sounds of the holiday.
- Force Your Dog to Stay. If your dog is visibly stressed, remove them from the situation immediately.
Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!
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