By Michelle Mullins, CPDT-KA, PetSafe Training & Behavior Education Manager
The sky is falling! No, it’s just Independence Day.
I love fireworks! It doesn’t matter when or why I will be instantly transfixed on the splash of colors and sparkle across the sky. I can’t resist running through the back yard with a sparkler trying to spell out my name in lights on the Fourth of July. Most pets, however, are not big fans of all the noise and lights. They find fireworks stressful and many are even extremely fearful of fireworks. Each year many people report hiding, shaking, whining, barking, and escape behaviors during firework displays. There are several things you can do to make the “fire in the sky” less stressful for your pets.
Regardless of how your pets react to fireworks, keep them away from all fireworks both before and after use. Even small fireworks like sparklers and fire crackers can cause burns and other injuries, especially to paws, mouths and eyes. Don’t forget to clean up all remnants afterwards.
Keeping pets inside at home will ensure they don’t escape the yard or a leash while trying to flee the fireworks. Provide a room with a space where your pet feels safe. Your pet’s crate or a bed a hide under can help a pet who wants to escape. Covering the crate and keeping curtains closed will lessen the flashing lights that can startle pets. I even put my mouse’s habitat inside a partially closed closet so he doesn’t get as frightened. I also give him some extra bedding to burrow into.
Provide some toys your pet enjoys. Pets might find their favorite toys comforting or a new toy interesting.
Stay with your pet, if possible, and pet and play with them if they are comfortable doing so. If they just want to curl up until the noise stops, that is alright. Although my dogs show concern about the lights and sound, they will engage in training games. I find it distracts them so I have them practice tricks and other behaviors during the fireworks.
Calming products can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. Wraps and calming caps by Thundershirt are easy to use and help both dogs and cats during stressful situations. Calming music or a “white noise” maker can provide some background noise which may also help.
Check with neighbors or community groups to see if they plan to have any fireworks. They may be understanding of your dog’s anxiety and limit or forgo the loudest ones.
Pets that show extremely fearful reactions to fireworks and other loud situation like storms may benefit from help from your veterinarian.
We hope you and your pets have a safe and fun July 4th! What are you planning to do?