As Independence Day and Canada Day approach, it’s time to buy fireworks or plan which fireworks display to attend! While fireworks are entertaining for people, for pets, they can be quite the opposite, and a source of fear.
When animals encounter a threatening situation, fear is nature’s way to protect them from harm. Fear triggers a “fight or flight” response, to approach the threat and deal with it or flee from it. The fear response arises from the instinct to survive.
The sights and sounds of fireworks can scare some animals. They can’t understand what the commotion is all about. Some pets are so fearful it becomes a phobia. If your dog is phobic, the best way to deal with it is to train your dog a few weeks in advance, prior to the time of year that fireworks occur. If this is not possible, there are some steps you can take to help your dog until you can work on a long-term training plan to desensitize your pet.
Here are some ways to help your dog cope through with the “fireworks season”:
- Never take your dog with you to a fireworks display. He may get agitated and bolt, and in the commotion and crowds, it may be difficult to find him.
- Keep your dog (and other pets) indoors during the fireworks. If possible, keep your pets confined to the most soundproof area of your home, such as the basement or an inner room without windows. Consider staying with your pet. Be sure that he is used to the room you’ve chosen, so he doesn’t see the confinement as punishment.
- Close all the windows in your home and try to further muffle the sounds by playing music, turning on the television, a fan, or using a white noise machine.
- If your dog enjoys his crate, take the crate to the interior room and cover it with a blanket to further muffle the sounds (being sure there is still good air circulation).
- Do not scold or punish your dog. Punishing him confirms that there is something to be fearful of.
- Do not coddle your dog during fireworks either. Do not pet or reassure your pet when he is scared. By “rewarding” the fearful behavior, the response may become more intense with each exposure to fireworks. Ignore the sounds yourself and try playing fetch or chase with your dog.
- Consider trying an anxiety wrap. Anxiety wraps apply gentle pressure, much like swaddling a baby, and may be a calming solution for dogs that have a fear to fireworks, thunder, or other noises; or are nervous with car and air travel, or experience separation anxiety.
- Consider inviting a non-fearful dog over to play with your dog during the fireworks! Playing with a non-fearful dog may encourage your dog to join in, seeing his friend having fun rather than being fearful.
Ask for help from your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication or pheromones. And your veterinarian can help you design a training program so that next year your dog is prepared!