Bright, flashing lights illuminating a dark sky, and the booming clap that reverberates within your chest, shaking the ground beneath your feet. The Fourth of July is most certainly an exciting time of the year, but many pet parents know these ‘exciting’ events equal an extremely stressed-out pup.
Some studies estimate that at least 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety.[i] Thunderstorms and fireworks are the most notable cause of this stress (which is understandable when one takes into consideration how important hearing is to our canine friends for obtaining information and how acute that hearing is). But what this all means is that the Fourth of July is the day more dogs run away from home than any other day of the year.[ii]
If you are here, it is probably because you already know your dog suffers from fireworks anxiety, but for a comprehensive list of symptoms, click here.
Luckily there are many ways to reduce the anxiety your pet may feel on America’s Independence Day.
1. Make sure your dog has proper identification
This will not help your pet in the moment but it may help them in the long run. It is important to make sure your dog has proper identification in the unfortunate event that they do run away. Fear induced by fireworks can make your dog act in a way they would never normally behave. Stories of dogs jumping fences or out of homes and running for miles are unfortunately more common than you would think.
2. Hear no evil, fear no evil
Fireworks are particularly good at scaring your pet because the loud abrupt noises trigger their fight-or-flight response. If you have the ability, taking your dog to an area that muffles or completely removes the sound from their reach, erasing the trigger entirely. This may be a friend’s house outside of town or even your own basement.Our very own owner's dog loves to rock a pair of noise canceling headphones when the sounds outside get a little too loud. Whatever your options are, any reduction of the stimulus will help. . Stay inside and try using a fan or playing music to even further reduce the reach of the noise.[iii]
Ultimately, being in a location your dog feels safe is the best; have their kennel handy as a safe place and put comforting smells near them.
3. Comfort, communicate, and cooperate
Do not underestimate your ability to influence your dog’s mood. Dogs look to their owners on how to respond in new situations
. If they see you are calm, cool, and collected, chances are it will help them to be more relaxed. It is okay to pet your dog when they are stressed and acknowledge them. Often, if you act like it is not a big deal they will reflect that energy. Unfortunately, in the case of fireworks, dulling the noise can often be key particularly in the case of a dog who has hearing sensitivities and can even have pain. Studies show
that dogs respond to voices much like humans do; just as a loved one talking can calm us, talking to your dog can calm them too.[iv] Distractions
also go a long way; refocus your dog’s attention on some tasty treats or fun games, practice those commands your dog already knows. Take their mind off the acute noises outside.[v]
Exercise can go a long way as a stress reliever, but in the case of noise anxiety, exercise beforehand can reduce those hyper nerves that are compounded in situations that are already anxiety inducing.
5. Sedation option
When all else fails, there are multiple options for sedation from the extremes like doggy Xanax to more natural, herbal remedies like chamomile
But if you choose to go the route of sedation, make sure to do your research and work with your veterinarian to understand how and why the product produces a calming effect on your dog. Certain products
such as thunder jackets have helped some dogs relax during extreme bouts of anxiety as well, but these products need to be introduced when the dog is in a calm state (i.e. positive association needs to be made beforehand).[vi]
6. Desensitization--a long term goal
Ultimately, desensitization is the most effective option for noise and firework anxiety. Training your dog to learn that loud noises equal treats, or other good things, can be done through slow introduction. Playing storm or firework sounds at low levels and slowly increasing the volume over many weeks is one way to desensitize your pet. It’s a slow process but a worthy one.[vii]
Remember, your dog will not care that they missed out on a once-a-year occasion; you do not need to bring them to the fun. Exercise, avoidance, and desensitization are the most simple means of noise anxiety reduction but also the most time consuming to be effective. If you can, be there for your dog, keep them inside and spend Independence Day celebrating in a more calming setting.
[i] Hoffman, J. (2016, June 28). A New Treatment for Dogs Scared by Thunder and Fireworks. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/why-thunder-and-fireworks-make-dogs-anxious/
[ii] Keeping your dog safe when the fireworks start | 5 Key Tips. (2019, May 17). Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.cesarsway.com/keeping-your-dog-safe-when-the-fireworks-start/
[iii] Marrs, M. (2019, May 04). 10 Tips to Calm Down Your Dog During Fireworks on the 4th of July! Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.k9ofmine.com/calm-dog-during-fireworks/
[iv] Callari, R. (2017, August 10). The Human Voice Calms Our Canines. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from http://petslady.com/article/human-voice-calms-our-canines
[v] McKinnon, H. (2019, May 15). Why Are Dogs Afraid Of Fireworks? 6 Ways To Comfort Your Dog During Fireworks. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.rover.com/blog/why-are-dogs-afraid-of-fireworks-in/
[vi] Keeping your dog safe when the fireworks start | 5 Key Tips. (2019, May 17). Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.cesarsway.com/keeping-your-dog-safe-when-the-fireworks-start/