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Dog lovers know that summer festivities can (and often do) take an unfortunate turn. Things can get especially hairy on Independence Day. The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests that more dogs run away on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year. Fireworks displays may be fun for human revelers, but they’re often frightening and overwhelming for our dogs. With strange sounds, colors, and smells, they may cause dogs to pant excessively, tremble, pace, and even injure themselves or damage furniture.
To make matters worse, it’s not as if towns and cities limit fireworks to just one evening a year. In many parts of the country, they’re a nightly nuisance throughout the summer months. Fortunately, pet parents have a number of options for mitigating fireworks anxiety and keeping their dogs calm.
Addressing Fireworks Anxiety in Dogs
Feed and Walk Your Dog Early
You can’t always predict when fireworks will go off, but they’re practically guaranteed on certain occasions. Don’t let these dates sneak up on you. Make sure to walk your dog early to avoid getting stuck outside when fireworks start going off. Since fireworks may ultimately make your dog too anxious to eat, make sure they’ve been fed before the sun goes down too.
Create a Personal Space for Your Dog
Unless you’ve got a bunker, you probably won’t be able to fully insulate your dog from fireworks. You can, however, take steps to limit their exposure and keep them as comfortable as possible. Draw all of your shades and curtains to keep flashing lights from your windows. Find an area of your home that’s relatively free from loud noises and create a comfortable space for your dog. This should include objects like blankets and toys that will keep them engaged and at ease.
Use White Noise
Fireworks are, by their very nature, especially loud. Even if your dog is hiding away in the basement, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to escape every sound. Jenn Stanley, a behavioral consultant and trainer, suggests drowning fireworks out with calmer white noise. Fans, televisions, and classical music can help calm an anxious dog.
Your dog may seek out your affection and attention during high-stress periods — give it to them. Remember to stay calm and always address your dog with a soothing tone. Bringing any additional stress or aggression to these interactions could make your dog feel even more anxious. Projecting a sense of calm, on the other hand, could prove infectious.
Get Your Dog Microchipped
Despite your best efforts, there’s still a chance your dog will make a break for it. In those situations, preparedness goes a long way. A microchip can help make sure your dog finds its way home quickly and safely. As fireworks-heavy summer holidays approach, make sure that your dog’s microchip registration is up to date.
A Few Don’ts
Episodes of fireworks anxiety can be exhausting and overwhelming for pet lovers, but it’s important not to let stress get the best of you. There are a few things a dog owner should never do when their dog loses its cool:
- Don’t force your dog to “face its fears.”
- Don’t reprimand or physically discipline your dog for their behavior during a fireworks display.
- Don’t leave your dog outdoors during a fireworks display.
- Don’t administer anti-anxiety medications without instructions from a veterinarian.
When in Doubt, Consult Your Vet
It’s possible that your dog’s fireworks anxiety is related to another, more serious medical condition. If you think this may be the case, consult with your veterinarian to get to the bottom of the issue. Remember, too, that you should never medicate your dog or make other major changes to your pet care routine before talking to an expert. A veterinarian may refer you to a canine behaviorist, prescribe anti-anxiety drugs, or suggest another course of medical and psychological treatment.