(This is an updated version of a previous post).
You’ve probably heard this a gazillion times already, but it can’t hurt to say it once more – more pets end up in shelters during and after the 4th of July than any other time of year because fireworks scare the bejeezus out of them.
Frightened dogs tend to bolt and run for long distances until they get far away from whatever scared them.
And if the fireworks keep going off, the dog will keep running.
Some people think their dog will be OK if they leave it in a fenced yard, but a panicked dog can jump over a moderately high fence.
And if you leave your dog alone in your house while you celebrate the 4th? You might find out just how much damage a freaked out dog can cause.
Even if you stay home and cookout in the backyard, your presence won’t prevent your dog from bolting once the fireworks start.
10 Tips for Dogs and Fireworks
1. Exercise your dog before the fireworks start!
Make time in your schedule to give your an extra long workout before the fireworks begin. Tired dogs are calmer and easier to keep quiet.
They will also sleep more deeply, and consequently, will be less likely to be disturbed by the noise outside.
Of course, if it’s really hot outside, take precautions to ensure your dog doesn’t get overheated.
2. Stay home with your dog.
I understand that not everyone can stay at home on the 4th, but your dog’s fear of fireworks can be exacerbated if you aren’t there to provide reassurance that they are safe.
This is especially important if you have a a new dog in the house because you won’t know how it reacts to fireworks.
3. Keep Calm.
Your dog reacts to your nonverbal cues. If you jump or tense up when you hear fireworks because you are anticipating your dog’s fear, you may make its fear worse.
4. Drown out the sound.
Turn up the stereo or television. and keep your windows closed during the fireworks.
Something that can provide background noise, like a fan or air conditioner can help as well.
5. Respect your dog’s fear.
Allow your dog to hide if it feels more comfortable in its crate or under a bed. Don’t pull it out or try to force it closer to the fireworks in an attempt to get him used to the sounds.
Just let it stay where it’s comfortable and provide reassurance that it’s safe.
6. Provide a distraction.
Break out your dog’s favorite treats, play a game, or give it some extra cuddle time. You can occupy it for awhile by filling a KONG with peanut butter or another yummy treat and freezing it.
7. Try the Thundershirt.
I’ve never tried a Thundershirt on my dogs, but some people swear by them. The pressure it provides has a calming effect on the nervous system.
8. Just say YES to drugs.
If know that your dog will panic when the fireworks start, ask your vet if he/she can prescribe medication like Sileo, an FDA-approved gel for the treatment of canine noise aversion.
Some people recommend giving your dog half a Benadryl to keep it calm but I wouldn’t try that unless you check with your vet first.
From my own experience I’ve found that cannabis made specifically for dogs is the best product for keeping my dogs calm and relaxed. Most independent pet stores in the Seattle area have it, or you can order it online.
9. Be Prepared.
Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags with its name, your name, and your phone number. Get your dog microchipped if it doesn’t have one. Buy your dog a license – if it runs off and is picked up by animal control, they will call to let you know they have your dog. And you won’t have to pay a big fine to get your dog back. You can also get a digital ID tag from Issaquah-based PetHub.
10. Remove visual stimulation.
Keep your curtains closed or blinds. Removing visual stimulation can help calm dogs.
I hope you find these tips helpful.
Have a great holiday, and be sure to keep your dogs safe and calm!