Is your dog firework-phobic? You’re not alone. More pets go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, and many more dogs have a miserable night filled with stress and anxiety.
We’ve given you information on desensitizing your dog to fireworks, but that process takes some time and should be started well before the holiday. And we shared a few tips on short-term preparations for making Independence Day safer for your dog.
But all that advice is moot when you’re at the zero hero, and your dog is freaking out over the scary, noisy sounds of the sky exploding.
Here are some tips on what to do, from Canine Good Citizen program director Mary Burch:
One trainer advises putting a loud action film on the television that will at least partially drown out the sounds outside. For some reason, some dogs tend to respond less to gunfire and explosions on the television than outside.
Tire him out. Earlier in the day, take him for a romp in the park, followed by an extra long walk or run (take caution if it’s hot out, and make sure your dog is hydrated). The idea is that by the time the skies light up, your dog will be lights out.
Give him a distracting toy or treat. A Kong stuffed with something extra special or a treat that requires some time to chew, like a bully stick, can help keep your dog preoccupied during the noise.
Put him in a safe area. Dogs feel like they have to protect their space, so limiting the amount of space they have to protect from whatever is causing those scary sounds can help reduce their anxiety. Put your dog in his crate (with his toy or treat described above) or shut him in a room. Also, close the curtains to block out the light.
Swaddle him. If your dog is really upset, putting a Thundershirt (or a snug tee shirt) on him might help. Burch's dog has responded well to a homeopathic remedy called OptiBalance. These tactics don't work on every dog, but hey, if you're desperate, they're worth a try.
Don’t freak out. If you are stressed about your dog being stressed, he’s going to get even more stressed himself. See how that works? Your dog senses your emotions and plays off of them. Open a bottle of wine, kick back, and let your dog know everything is A-Okay.
And for next year, plan ahead. Here are tips on helping your dog get over his fear of fireworks. You can contact the AKC GoodDog! Helpline or a Canine Good Citizen trainer/evaluator (find one close to you here) for further advice.
For severe cases, contact your veterinarian, who may recommend intervention with a behavior specialist and/or medication.