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Tips To Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks




The consistent loud noises and bright flashing lights can cause a lot of stress for your pets, making the 4th of July one of the most stressing days of the year for your dog! Dogs who are scared of thunderstorms, consider fireworks the bigger, meaner, louder cousin to thunder. Keeping your pets inside during the fireworks is important, if they get outside and are scared, they can run away and get lost, which is the last thing you want! You should also make sure your pup has on their collar with updated contact information, just in case something does happen. Also ensure that your pup is microchipped and that that information is up to date. If they do escape there's a better chance, they'll get returned if the proper information is on them! Many dog owners deal with howling, barking and generally anxious dogs during fireworks. Most pets will probably never be as big of a fan of fireworks as you are, hopefully these tips will help to calm your dog down, reduce anxiety during fireworks, and help you and your family!


Exercise Beforehand

On days of scheduled fireworks, try taking your pup out for a walk. Or try some high energy, enrichment activities like fetch. Just be sure to be back home before the festivities start! Whichever way you choose to exercise your pup ensure your dog is secure on a leash before you head out. Even if your dog is usually on a leash when going out, double-check the fit of your dog's collar or harness before going outside. In a fenced-in area, a leash is also a great added safety measure to help keep your dog close to you and under control should they get startled. A good safety measure would also be to walk your dog during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off. Fortunately, unlike thunderstorms, you usually know when fireworks are coming. Make sure to try and get your dog lots of exercise before the fireworks start. A tired, sleepy dog will have less pent-up nervous energy when the fireworks start going off.

Create a Safe Space

Lots of dogs look for somewhere out of sight and hearing of the fireworks. Creating a place where your dog will hopefully feel comfortable is a good option to have. Try setting up an area in a quiet space away from windows, such as a basement or a larger closet. so that they can’t hear or see fireworks. You should also get your pet used to this calming environment beforehand. A crate can be used if that’s where your dog feels safe, and make sure to provide them with familiar toys and treats. Providing toys and other things that they enjoy in the safe space will help keep them calm. Closing windows and curtains can help to muffle the sounds of fireworks as well as blacking out your doggy safe space will eliminate them seeing any associated flashes. Be sure to move your dog to the safe haven each evening before the fireworks begin. Lastly make sure there are things for you to do too, so your dog isn't left alone!

Play White Noise

The noise of fireworks typically prompts fear in dogs the most. If you can drown out those crashes and booms with white noise machine or soothing music, you can quickly reduce their stress levels! You can also turn on the TV to help block out the sound and reduce the impact fireworks have on your dogs. Even trying to leave on a fan can help mask the sounds of the fireworks. One musical recommendation is some classical music called "Through a Dog's Ear" that has been shown to have calming effects for dogs.

Create Distractions

Distractions can greatly help your dog during fireworks as it helps to keep their focus on something else besides the loud booms and flashes. One option is to offer your pup “Self-soothe” techniques by helping the dog calm down through sniffing, chewing, or licking. Use goodies they love and put them in puzzle toys such as snuffle and lick mats to encourage your dog to focus on something other than the noise outside. Get out their favorite toys / games and play, if your dog wants to join in, great, if not don't force them to play. Acting as normal as possible around your dog and interacting with them is helpful as they can pick up on your mood.

Give Them Lots of Love

If you can, try staying home with your dog or leaving them in the hands of a trusted person. You can and should comfort your dog if they're afraid. The important part is in how you do so, remain calm and use a soothing, even tone. Petting them can be comforting if they like the attention, doing long, slow, firm strokes along the length of their body can be soothing. The main thing to avoid here is seeming frantic in any way. Rapidly saying, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK” in a higher-than-average pitch may make your dog think that there really is something to fear. Try your best to remain calm and reassuring to help your pup. It’s up to the dog; if you have a pup looking for reassurance, there’s nothing wrong with quietly soothing them with some cuddles.

Contact Your Vet

If your pet's anxiety is severe, consider booking an appointment with your vet well in advanced of the holiday so you and your vet can discuss potential medications that could soothe your dog. Don't wait until the day of the holiday to contact your vet, preparation is key! If you have a dog that is bad enough and not enough prep work has been done, and you know your pet is going to be in a panic, reach out to your vet!! You can also ask your vet about trying CBD, dog calming treats or supplements, or dog anxiety vests. If none of the above completely calm your dog and they still seem very distressed during fireworks, contact your veterinarian for additional assistance. In some cases, a small amount of an anxiety relieving medication in addition to other options may be necessary to help your dog eventually lose their fear of fireworks.

Training

Consider enlisting the expertise of a trainer if the fear of fireworks and other similar noises are negatively impacting your dog's life. One way that may help you start training in the meantime is to pair the sound of fireworks (softly), so your dog gets used to hearing them with a treat your dog likes. This counter-conditions the dog to associate the fireworks with good things instead of being stressed and potentially overwhelmed. The volume should be low enough that your dog can notice it, but does not show signs of stress like panting, pacing, leaving the area, or trying to hide. This keeps the dog "below threshold" and it makes it possible for learning to take place. If the dog is overwhelmed, they’re looking to escape the situation and are not going to be nearly as capable of learning that it’s not a threat. Other helpful tips in the meantime are to increase the volume gradually, vary the source of the sound, and use different firework recordings. The random and unexpected nature of fireworks’ sounds can cause stress in dogs. It's never too early to start planning, working with a trainer or behavior consultant to desensitize your dog to fireworks or other fears gradually can majorly help your pup's anxiety.

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