So many new dogs and puppies found loving families and homes over the quarantine period. For many of them, they’ve only experienced quiet, peaceful lives while everyone has been telecommuting and staying at home. Now we are creeping into one of the loudest weeks of many of our dogs lives. Do you know if your dog is scared of fireworks?
For those of you, who like myself, have a dog that is frightened of fireworks, you might be looking into ways to manage the event as it’s already in progress.
Here are some things you can do ahead of time to help make the “big day” less of an overwhelming nightmare. If your dog is new to the concept of fireworks, now is your chance to ensure they never develop intense fear and anxiety.
Keep Them Calm
Start creating a similarly calming sensation for your dog. If you plan on using natural sedatives for your dog, use them intermittently before the big day. It can be very jarring for your dog to all of a sudden feel veerrry sleepy while simultaneously feeling terrified. I personally use CBD treats to calm my dogs down during stressful events and start using them daily a couple of weeks before Fourth of July. Dope Dog treats are great and you can even pick up a bag here at Fitdog Club! This helps create a calm state of mind long before any traumatic event.
Pheromones are another great option for helping your dog stay calm. This is all about acclimation and preparation. If all of a sudden your house smells different AND scary booms start going off… you see where I’m going with this. Timing matters. A plug-in diffuser is a great option and needs to be plugged in 1-2 weeks ahead of time.
Give Them Something Delicious
A stuffed femur bone filled with cream cheese or a Kong filled with peanut butter is just the ticket. Get your dog interested in this activity before the sky lights up. Giving your dog these things only on the day can actually backfire and your dog might start to have an aversion to them because they learn to associate peanut butter and cream cheese with traumatic loud sounds. Having it beforehand helps your dog associate positively when the fireworks are happening. Like, “These noises are terrifying, but heck I LOVE my Peanut Butter Kong!” Check out this post for ideas for great stuffables.
Create A “Safe Space” (And Get Them Used To It)
Ideally this would be your dog’s crate. Your dog should already associate their crate with calm and safety so naturally this is a great option. For a dog that is already terrified during fireworks, just their crate is not enough. Consider moving their crate to a “sound insulated” room. Bathrooms and closets tend to be better at muffling out sound and are naturally smaller spaces in your house. Move your dog’s crate or bed into the bathroom or closet 1-2 weeks ahead of the fireworks extravaganza and get them used to spending quiet, enjoyable time in there with their yummy Kong and Calming crunchies.
Wrap Them Up
While a ThunderShirt can be effective, they lose their ability to work when we put them on our dog after they are already in duress. If you have a dog that is terrified of fireworks wearing their ThunderShirt during these traumatic events, they now view it as an omen for a scary night ahead. Start putting their Thunder Jacket on them 1-2 weeks ahead of time each night for a few hours. That way, when nothing happens they can disconnect the jacket from guaranteed trauma. Then, it start to serve its intended purpose.
Is it too late for my dog?
Let’s talk about why your dog might be afraid. Fireworks are alarming and out of the ordinary. Fireworks only happen a couple of times a year, which means for your dog they may not have heard them during their fear imprint period. Also, because it’s so infrequent, they don’t generalize it. For puppies that are under 6 months during this time of year are lucky. Fireworks now become a part of their healthy socialization period.
Start Desensitizing Them To Sound
If you have an adult dog afraid of fireworks go low and slow. Get out the yummy kong or bone and play a soundtrack for them for fireworks paired with some classical music. This way, the fireworks sound is way in the background. This is a great option. Play this sound track very low gradually increasing the volume day by day. Next move into a soundtrack that is just fireworks sounds. Play this sound track very low, gradually making it louder and louder each day. Remember your calming treats, pheromones, jackets and all the accoutrements.
Start using fireworks sound track at a pretty high volume right away during one of your puppy’s in-crate nap times. Put them in their crate with a yummy puppy stuffable and let the show begin. Next alternate between this soundtrack and one that is just fireworks daily to get them ready for their first big Fourth of July celebration.
Remember to move at your dog’s pace and plan on staying home to help acclimate them their first time. We also recommend staying at home if your dog has a history of being scared of fireworks. Avoid taking your dog to an event where fireworks will be displayed as you are more likely to create long lasting trauma and PTSD.
Other preparations might include: securing your backyard and windows. Shelters will see an increase of up to 30% in lost pets during the week of the fourth of July.* Make sure they can’t escape! Fix any broken window latches or screens. Check your backyard fence for holes or loose boards and secure all gates and latches.
If you are planning on heading out to partake in the celebrations, consider boarding your pet that day and night. This ensures your dog will be in a safe place unable to escape. Plus they’ll be having a better time hanging out with friends instead of home alone listening to the sky falling.