By Natalie Lester, PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist
As you prepare your grand fireworks finale for your July 4th celebration, remember to consider your dog’s reaction to the sparkly, but noisy, big show.
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.
Since fireworks are only set off a few times a year, your dog never really has time to understand what the loud noise is. One of the best options to preventing stress is to desensitize by allowing him to hear the noises at different volumes and on a regular basis.
You can 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.
Regardless of if 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 their biggest weeks for animal rescues. A dog’s instinct is to run and hide to get away from the loud noise, so 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 stay 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 fireworks 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 as much as possible before the fireworks start in your area. Take him on a long walk and play a few games of fetch. By getting all his 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 tried 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.
We hope everyone can find a way to celebrate Independence Day with your pet. What are your plans? Do you have any other fireworks advice? Let us know in the comment section below.
As the PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist, Natalie manages The Paw Print blog and generates other brand related content including public relations and promotions. Before PetSafe, Natalie worked in the local media covering politics, education, and religion. Natalie’s puppy, Emma, spends almost as much time in the office as she does.