The 4th of July holiday is typically the number one week of the year for stray pets to arrive at local shelters.
A fear of fireworks—and of loud noises in general—is common in dogs. The flash of light or the strong smell of sulfur may contribute to the fear. Some dogs trying to escape from the noise have jumped through glass windows or climbed over fences. Other behaviors include trembling, panting, constantly seeking owner’s attention, excessive salivation, barking, pacing, hiding, or soiling in the house.
Keeping your dog calm during fireworks may require a menu of strategies. Here are 9 tips:
1. Make sure your pet has identification. Collar i.d. tags as well as microchipping.
2. Keep an eye on your pet. Be present, but don’t give your pet too much attention because this can reinforce and encourage fearful behavior.
3. Make your home a sanctuary for your pet. Have an interior room where you pet can stay. For example, a bathroom or basement with no windows. If you dog considers its crate a refuge, bring the crate to the interior room.
4. Allow your pet to hide. It’s your pet’s way of coping and dragging them out of a safe spot can increase their anxiety level.
5. Drown out the noise. Turn on the TV or play music, purchase a white noise machine or a fan.
6. Never leave your pet outside. Do not leave your dog tethered it will find the combination of the noise and restraint traumatic and can easily be injured.
7. Consider a ThunderShirt. This product, available at pet supply stores, applies gentle pressure to a dog and helps to calm them. It’s a little bit like babies feeling calmer when they are tightly wrapped in a baby blanket.
8. Give your dog a special treat reserved for stressful situations. The treat will help divert your dog’s attention from the noise.
9. Medication. Your veterinarian can recommend over-the-counter calming products or prescribe mild sedatives or tranquilizers keeping in mind that some medications require administering weeks in advance. Your veterinarian can also provide you with guidance regarding desensitization techniques.