Oh, no! it’s that time of year again! The booms, the pops and explosions! Though many dogs have no problem with fireworks, there are some pups that find them frightening! Fortunately, there are some things you can do to calm your dog during fireworks.
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Fear of fireworks
We have had dogs through most of our life. Our gentle giant 92-pound mutt from the animal orphanage actually enjoyed watching fireworks. Our schnauzer never showed signs of fear either. But our current pup, well he is already terribly frightened by the pre-festivity pops he hears in the evening.
Night time walks to relieve him before hunkering down for bed have become a chore. Toby tugs on the leash struggling to get to the door and back inside. He is strong for a small dog and sometimes tugs right out of his harness.
Toby is a 14-month old cockapoo who is a happy, people and dog-loving boy. As a very young pup we took him weekly to a puppy socialization class. The first few visits, he was pretty scared of the other dogs. But with food rewards and lots of interaction, he overcame that. He isn’t afraid of storms either. Just loud, sudden pops.
This past week, the house just across the street had their roof replaced. The constant sound of the nail gun was difficult for both Toby and us and it really heightened his fear.
Last 4th of July, Toby was just 11 weeks old. We were careful to be nonchalant and somewhat protective with him in regards to the fireworks. We were bringing him in after a potty walk when we thought all fireworks were over. Just before entering the house, a colorful blast boomed and he startled. Maybe that experience has stayed with him.
Due to Covid, many fireworks displays have been cancelled or postponed. However, recent changes to the law now permit persons 16 years of age or older to use certain sparkling devices and novelties. Those like hand held or ground based sparklers, snakes, and glow worms, party poppers, snappers, and drop pops.
Those are the ones we are hearing in our neighborhood and upsetting Toby. It saddens me because watching fireworks along with the blaring patriotic music is one of my very favorite things. My heart swells as I hum along to the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America while magnificent colors flair above.
Did you know that more pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day? Running away from the noise is a survival instinct. It is wise to take extra steps to ensure your dogs safety, and make sure he is wearing proper identification should he dart and run off.
Using Medication to help relieve anxiety
I read online suggestions to give Benadryl to help calm an anxious dog during fireworks. I discussed this with his veterinarian and she said it acts only as a sedative.
Instead, I was given a prescription for trazodone. Trazodone is an antidepressant that is used to treat among other things, anxiety or noise fear caused by fireworks or thunderstorms. I will update this post after the 4th of July with my thoughts on its effectiveness.
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Calm your Dog during Fireworks
While researching ways to calm my own pup, I thought many of you might face the same situation. Fireworks can cause fear, anxiety and even traumatize a dog. Here are some helpful safety tips to calm your dog when he is afraid or scared this holiday weekend.
Tips to prepare you dog for fireworks
Here are several things you can do to help your dog feel safe and secure.
- Keep your dog inside during the time fireworks are going on. If you have a friend or family member that doesn’t live near the noise, see if you can work out for them to care for your pet.
- Don’t leave your dog at home alone. If you’re headed out to enjoy the holiday without them, find a sitter.
- Before fireworks begin, be sure your dogs water bowl is full as anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
- Feed him as well prior, since the fireworks may make him too anxious to eat.
- Give your dog lots of exercise ahead of time. Walk him, throw a ball and play with him. This helps tire him out and use pent-up energy.
- Have some high-value treats ready. Something your dog enjoys enough that the emotional response it produces is stronger than his fear. Pieces of boiled chicken or squeeze cheese are ideas. Sit with your pet and feed him with each boom. This is to help your dog make a positive association with the noises for the future.
- Create a safe place for your dog, preferably away from outside windows or doors. Close the blinds or curtains to reduce outside noises, and play some music or the TV creating white noise to help block some of the sound of the fireworks.
- Comfort you dog if he responds to it. Your dog might choose to hide under the bed or behind furniture. If he comes to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to him. Gently petting him can help him feel secure. Long, slow, firm strokes along the length of his body can be very soothing.
- Remain calm yourself as your dog will take clues from you. The emotions we display can affect how dogs respond to potentially scary things.
If you like, print out this FREE chart of the tips above and keep handy for future reference!
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