For some dogs the Fourth of July is just another family fun day. For other dogs it can be an overwhelmingly stressful and panic inducing time. The unfamiliar loud bangs and bright lights of fireworks can be downright terrifying for our furry friends. Animal shelter intake numbers skyrocket after the 4th as terrified pets can often escape their homes in panic and then find themselves lost and displaced.
I remember many years ago when I first started caring for dogs, I was watching a beautiful, happy go lucky Golden Retriever named Baxter. Baxter was so triggered by the fireworks that he started pacing frantically, panting, and shaking uncontrollably. I eventually built a fort for him between the coffee table and the couch. We got in there together and I held him tight and reassured him it was going to be ok. He didn't stop shaking until the fireworks were over. Not only was it heartbreaking, it was scary, as Baxter's panic was escalating and I didn't know how to calm him down.
If you have a pup like Baxter with noise-related phobias, there are many ways you can help ease their stress and help them to remain calm and keep them safe during the Fourth of July.
1. Keep your pets inside if possible. Make sure all doors and gates are locked and escape proof. You would be surprised how much of an escape artist your dog can become in a panicked situation. Your pet should be in a safe, comfortable space that he or she has already been well familiarized with. A well loved crate or room in the house is the best choice.
*Note If your pup needs to go on a walk, make sure you do it before the action starts.
2. There are many products on the market today that can help quell anxiety in our pets. Some favorites include homeopathy such as Rescue Remedy, calming wraps like Thundershirts, calming music found online or Through a dog's ear by icalm. Did you know that studies have shown dogs to prefer classical music and reggae over other genres of music?
You can try one of them or all of them simultaneously. Ideally, to set your pup up for success you should find the right fit before the stress of the Fourth of July.
3. Re-direct them and help them to create a positive associate with the loud sounds of the Fourth by giving them an interactive chew toy, high value treats, or a Lickimat. Lickimat will not only help create a positive association with fireworks but the process of licking releases endorphins which can help them self-soothe.
4. Please make sure your pet is microchipped and is wearing updated ID tags. An easy, preventative way to ensure if they do get lost there is a greater chance that they will be returned to you swiftly and safely.
5. Consider having someone stay home during the fireworks. Dogs are social creatures and most dogs don't particularly enjoy being left alone in the first place. What better way to make them feel safe and secure than having someone there to comfort them.
6. Lastly, if you think your dog suffers from severe anxiety, consider talking to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication. Canine Xanax is a real thing and can be incredibly helpful in certain acute situations.
In addition to these tips, slowly desensitizing your new puppy or dogs to the loud bangs ahead of time can help set them up for success.