4th of July Fireworks Tips for Dog Owners
Veterinarian Reviewed on July 3, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
Posted in Behavior Management
On Saturday night, millions of Americans will be lighting fireworks in honor of Independence Day. However, whilst you are reveling in the magic of the fireworks, your dog may be cowering in the corner, especially when you consider that a dog’s hearing is ten times more sensitive than a human’s. Therefore, the sounds of the fireworks going off can cause your dog to experience anxiety, stress and fear. Keep in mind that the sounds and sights of fireworks is not something that your dog will regularly experience, and so will come as a bit of a shock to him when he first sees and hears fireworks.
There are, however, a few things that you can do to help your dog through this festive celebration if they are afraid of fireworks:
Leave your dog at home
Leave your dog at home as it will be far better for the both of you if your dog is at home rather than taking him with you to watch the fireworks display at your local community park. Your dog will not only be in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by a mass of unfamiliar people, but the repeated loud bangs and flashes of light will stress your dog out quickly.
Keep your dog Indoors
If you live nearby to a community fireworks display try to keep your dog indoors whilst you are out, preferably inside a crate that he is already accustomed to. If a crate or carrier is not an option then leave your dog in a bedroom or other safe place where he can do the least amount of harm to himself and to your house. Close the curtains, turn on the all the lights, and turn on the TV or radio. Keep the volume relatively high as it will be harder for your dog to hear the fireworks through the sound of the TV or radio.
Stay with your dog
If you are planning on staying home with your dog, remain with him at all times to monitor his stress level. Remember that even though your dog may not be stressed out by fireworks now, as he gets older his hearing will change and different sounds will affective him differently.
Put their collar on
Be sure that your dog is wearing his collar with ID tags attached, and make sure that your identification is up to date as well. Some dogs run away if they are outside, or jump through windows if they are inside, in order to get away from the deafening sound of the fireworks.
Play with them before
Try to spend plenty of time playing with your dog beforehand as not only will this tire him out and help him sleep through the fireworks, but it will also prevent him from being resentful of being left home alone if you do go out. Make sure that your dog goes potty before it gets dark.
Massage your dog
Give your dog a nice doggie massage before dark as this will help keep him in a relaxed state of being and therefore better equipped to handle the stress of fireworks.
Feed them carbohydrates
Feed your dog cooked, plain, white rice with his evening meal. The carbohydrate will make your dog feel fuller and sleepier, and will therefore be less anxious hearing the fireworks go off.
Prepare relaxing aromas
Use an aromatherapy plug-in, diffuser or essential oil such as Lavender, Juniper, Chamomile, Bergamot, and Frankincense, to release a relaxing aroma in your home that will help keep your dog calm. Remember to never leave an aromatherapy candle burning unattended!
Herbal stress relief
Purchase a herbal formula such as Stress Gold for High Stress Situations in Dogs, which has healthy combination of herbs that have been proven to help calm a stressed out dog.
If your dog is out with you and does get upset, try to distract him as best as you can. Bring along his favorite toy to bring his attention away from the loud noises and flashing lights. Try giving your dog a Kong toy that is stuffed with peanut butter, especially if your dog loves that taste. Another trick is to give your dog a brand new toy as a reward for being out with you. You might find that your dog is more interested in his new toy than in the fireworks.
Watch your words
Keep in mind that soothing your dog with babyish sounds or with words such as ‘its ok’, ‘relax’, ‘everything’s fine’, will not calm your dog down. Instead, those words and phrases will alert your dog to the fact that there really is something to be concerned about. Rather encourage your dog by cheerfully telling him that he is a ‘good boy’.
Never punish your dog for being scared of the fireworks as this can lead to severe emotional and psychological issues down the road.
Photo Credit: thedamian
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan