It’s that time of year again where those loud things go “boom” in the sky and then you find your dog shaking in the bathtub.
Fourth of July is a time meant for celebration, barbecues and beaches, yet for owners of fearful dogs, we find ourselves asking why the teenagers down the street couldn’t just cut it out with the fire crackers instead of joining in on the fun.
Here are some things you can do now to prepare your scaredy-pup for America’s favorite holiday!
Start counter conditioning and desensitizing your dog to the sound of fireworks! We all have access to YouTube right? Find a video similar to this one, and begin playing it at a low volume. You know your dog best, so start at a level that you know they won’t be scared of. Play the sounds, and introduce yummy food; stop the sounds, and stop the yummy food. Repeat. As your dog’s comfort level increases, increase the sound, or duration you play the sounds. Even doing this once or twice in the next month could make a huge difference the day of.
Create a safe space, and get your dog used to it. Maybe you want to set up a basement area, or can throw a blanket over a coffee table, either way, you’ll want to get your dog used to that space now instead of later. Hang out with them in or near the space while they enjoy a stuffed-Kong or other type of yummy chew. Don’t forget to tell them what a good dog they are!
Get creative with your plan! If you’re like most people in urban areas, each surrounding town has their firework displays on different nights. On the night your town’s go off, take an excursion with your pet somewhere else! Go visit a friend, or enjoy a long car ride, maybe drive out to that cheeseburger stand you’ve been meaning to go to. Last year, I took my dog to an outdoor movie theater while the fireworks went off down the street from my house. Two days later, I went to a firework display in a neighboring town, will my dog slept soundly at home. It was a win-win for all!
Talk with your vet! If you have major concerns surrounding the Fourth of July holiday and your pet, speak up to the professional! Depending on your dog’s health, your vet may be able to provide you with some light sedatives or anti-anxiety medications that could help your dog cope with sudden and loud noises. Fearfuldogs.com has an awesome blog post about behavioral medicine! Additionally, over the counter products like the Thundershirt, Adaptil Collar, Composure Chews or Rescue Remedy can be incredibly helpful as well!
Prepare for the worst-hope for the best! Sometimes our dogs can be caught off guard by loud and sudden sounds- even if they normally stay close by. When animals are scared, they think survival, and dogs in survival mode can do outrageous things! I saw an English mastiff break through a window and climb onto a roof once- so I never doubt the abilities of any animal to run off when scared. Remember to check your dog’s microchip to make sure their information is up-to-date, make sure they are wearing a collar with an updated I.D. tag, be sure to have a recent photo of your pet ready, and keep your dog on leash or wearing a drag line! For extra safety- consider buying a GPS tracker!
Finally, don’t forget to comfort your pet when they are scared! The myth of reinforcing fear has been debunked for years now! Be the comforting leader your dog needs you to be!