While we’re enjoying our fill of hot dogs, hamburgers and icy cold delicacies, our dog’s our hiding away awaiting the first BANG of a firework.
The constant loud noise, rumbling and bright lights caused by fireworks can cause extreme stress and anxiety in your pal. This year, give your dog a break. Help relieve his stress by helping him face one of his biggest fears.
One of the fastest ways to get your dog prepared for fireworks is getting him used to the sound of fireworks. Since fireworks are only set off a few times a year, your dog never really has time to understand what the loud noise he’s hearing is.
To desensitize your pet find a video of fireworks or search YouTube for “loud fireworks” (If you just search for fireworks you may end up desensitizing your dog to Katy Perry instead). Play the video at a low noise level while playing with your dog and his favorite toy. Continue doing this everyday making the noise a bit louder each time. If your dog seems to be anxiety ridden when it gets too loud, turn it back down a little bit and keep going.
Whether or not desensitizing works, you still need to prepare your pal for the actual fireworks. Even if he seems to have become desensitized, do not let him outside when fireworks are going off. Rescue groups and shelters have reported that the 4th of July weekend is one of they’re biggest weeks for animal rescues. It’s instinct for a dog to run and hide to get away from the loud noise, if you let him outside you are only increasing his chances of running away.
If your dog does become anxious, let him choose where he wants to say for the duration of the fireworks. Don’t force him to listen to the fireworks if he is not ready. That will only make things worse.
If your dog is destructive when fireworks go off, you need to put him somewhere he feels safe. A few days before fireworks begin in your area, play the firework noises while he is in his crate or a room he feels safe in. This helps him associate the noise with being in a safe place.
For some added preparation play with your pal a lot the day fireworks start in your area. Take him on a long walk and play a few games of fetch. By getting all your dog’s energy out, he’ll most likely be too tired to care. But, don’t coddle him too much when you play. He may begin associating changes in your personality with his fear, which will cause him to become more anxious.
If your dog’s phobia is so bad that he is still destructive after you’ve try to desensitize him and prepare him for what’s to come you may want to ask your vet about medication. There are a number of anti-anxiety medications and sedatives that your dog can take. However, you don’t want to have to medicate your dog every year. When you go to your vet talk about other long term solutions to desensitize your pet.
Photo credit: Tricia Wang