4th of July fireworks cause tremendous stress for most dogs. Unlike other loud sounds that dogs are acclimated to, like thunder or a car engine backfire, fireworks come from closer to the ground and are accompanied by flashes of blinding light and acrid, burning smells. As dogs experience the world through their ears, eyes and nose, the assault, coming from all quarters, is just too overwhelming for them.
The sudden, loud bursts of fireworks trigger their nervous systems, and a lot of dogs run away from home during this holiday on account of fear, anxiety and confusion. Pet-owners are well aware of this fact, which is why 3rd of July is a busy day at most veterinarian’s, when people come asking for calming and anti-stress medications for their pets.
Here are some facts about 4th of July fireworks, and what you can do to keep your pets safe and secure when the fireworks start to go off this year.
# 1: IS YOUR HOME AN EPICENTER OF FIREWORK PLAY?
If you’re having a house party which promises to be loud, or your residence is located in a noisy neighborhood, it might be a good idea to take your dogs to another familiar home of a friend or family member which is a lot quieter. Make sure the location is familiar and your pets feel secure in the company of the humans who will look after them.
# 2: DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOGS ALONE AT HOME
It goes without saying. No loving pet-owner will want to leave their dogs alone and afraid on 4th of July. However, if some emergency does strike, call in a pet-sitter for the duration you will be gone.
# 3: MAKE SURE THE DOGS CANNOT RUN AWAY
Always keep an eye out for where your pets are if you’re having people over for a 4th of July celebration. Do not let them roam freely in the yard with invited guests because once the fireworks start going off, the dogs can run away without you even knowing they are gone.
# 4: MAKE SURE THEY ARE WEARING ID TAGS
In the terrible event of your dog running away, it will much easier to find him/her if proper identification tags, along with contact phone numbers, are attached to the collar.
# 5: ACCLIMATE THEM TO THE SOUND OF FIREWORKS
The thing with 4th of July is that it comes round only once a year. Not enough time for your pets to acclimate to it.
A simple acclimation process is to play sounds of fireworks going off from a couple months before the real life event. Do it right before the dogs embark on a pleasurable activity, like going out for a walk or eating their meal or getting a treat. This will build a `connection’ and help wire their minds to associate the sounds of fireworks with a positive experience. Increase the volume of the recording gradually and allow the dogs to re-adjust their expectation to the rising decibel, so that when the actual fireworks happen, the edge of shock and surprise will be considerably blunted.
# 6: ARE YOU PLANNING TO USE MEDICATION?
If your vet has suggested sedative medication, remember that it has to already be in effect before the fireworks begin. Trying to medicate a dog with calming drugs when the animal is already at an anxiety level of 8 or 9 will simply overrule its impact.
# 7: PROVIDE A SAFE RETREAT
Create a space where your dogs can hide if they want to be alone. For example, raise the height of your bed, so they can comfortably get under it. They will probably be looking for small, enclosed hideouts, like their own, cozy crates if they already have one. Let them have all their favorite toys and other happy playthings to help keep them distracted.
# 8: SHUT OUT THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Close all doors, windows and draw the curtains to create as much distance as possible from the noise going on outside. Neutralize some of its impact by playing music or turning on the television. Soothing music specially composed for dogs may also help. You can buy such music online or find a good, free library of them on YouTube. Set your chosen music video on a loop and let it play on and on in the background until the fireworks have stopped.
# 9: CALMING WRAPS MAY HELP
Calming wraps and de-stressing thundershirts may come in quite handy to help make your animals feel more secure. The impact of their constant, gentle pressure works like swaddling does for babies to impart reassurance.
# 10: EXERCISE THE DOGS WELL BEFOREHAND
Give the dogs a very active day before the fireworks begin. The less energy they have left to expend, the easier it will be to keep them calm.
# 11: ADD MORE CARBOHYDRATE TO THEIR MEAL
Include foods like boiled rice or potatoes in their meals for the day. Carbohydrates make dogs feel fuller and sleepier.
# 12: DO NOT COMMUNICATE YOUR OWN ANXIETY
Before you can think of de-stressing the dogs, you have to de-stress yourself because your pets will feed off your anxiety. As pack leader, you got to always stay in control.
# 13: SOME DOGS DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH FIREWORKS
All dogs are not stressed by fireworks. In fact, some are very excited by the sight of bright showers and sparkles and appear not to mind the loud noises either. This has a lot to do with their personalties, so don’t be surprised if one of your dogs is looking for hiding places while the other cannot wait for all the 4th of July firework fun to begin!