Fireworks are fun. They’re bright! They’re loud! They’re…terrifying! (If you’re a dog.)
It’s only natural that dogs – and cats! – should be put off by the sound of fireworks. If your dog hates them, you’re in good company: more dogs run away on July 4th than any other day of the year. Unfortunately, fireworks can happen anytime, particularly around New Year’s Eve, after sporting events, and during seasonal celebrations.
What can you do to keep your loving pet both safe and sane during the rockets’ red glare? Here are four ways vets prepare their own dogs for fireworks they know are coming.
1. Plenty of Exercise
One of the best things you can do for your dog on a day you know there are likely to be fireworks is to give her plenty of exercise. The more tired your pooch, the less energy she’ll have to lose it once the banging noises begin! Lots of physical play time with your dog that day also reminds her she’s safe with you; it’s a great way to reconnect before the going gets tough. And, bonus, if the fireworks will coincide with a food-heavy celebration, you’ll both burn a few calories!
2. Think Thundershirt
The term “Thundershirt,” of course refers to a specific brand of pressure wrappers called, well, ThunderShirt®. Pressure wraps come in all brands, sizes, and materials, though, and they’re all designed with the same idea: that applying pressure to the soft tissue during periods of distress can actually lessen the physical symptoms of anxiety. Whether a pressure wrap works for your dog will depend on her demeanor and preferred form of comfort, but it’s certainly worth a shot if she’s naturally predisposed to anxiety over fireworks, thunder, and other unusual noises.
3. Create a Safe Space
Before dark, create a space that’s comforting for your dog that you’ll ride out the fireworks in together. This could be a bedroom, a dog bed by the couch, or even a pile of blankets under your desk. Wherever your dog naturally runs to when loud noises happen is probably where she feels safest! Lead your dog to the “safe spot” several times throughout the day, and give her a treat once she’s nestled and calm. Repeat the process during the fireworks, and stay nearby to keep her anxiety low. Even if you want to see the fireworks yourself, it’s never a good idea to leave an anxious dog home alone during the big event.
You have a few options if your dog really, truly can’t handle fireworks. The best thing to do, of course, is to get to some place quieter, but that’s not always feasible. Instead, talk to your vet about supplements and medications designed to calm your dog’s anxiety. Some over-the-counter pheremones have been shown to be effective calming agents, and some veterinarians swear by melatonin. Prescription medications for dog anxiety exist; your vet can answer any questions you might have.
Above all else, always be sure your dog is wearing well-fitting collar with identifying information when fireworks start. Even the most placid dogs can be spooked into running “away” from loud noises, getting themselves lost.
Questions about your dog and fireworks?