It’s almost July 4th and that means barbeques, parties and fireworks. Some dogs don’t mind fireworks while others are extremely fearful. So for some dog parents, the 4th of the July is less of a holiday and more of a stressful evening with their pup. But there is hope. Try these tips and tricks to help calm your dog during this stressful time.
The reason dogs are afraid of fireworks is simple; it’s because they are loud. A dog’s hearing is extremely sensitive. To dogs, the sound of a firework boom is like an explosion right outside their house. So no wonder a lot of dogs are afraid!
Rule number 1 for calming your dog during this time is for you to stay calm. Many times pup parents get anxious before the fireworks begin because they know that their dog is going to become overwhelmed by the noise. Mom’s and Dad’s start dreading the trembling, whining, panting and pacing that many dogs exhibit when they are fearful. Your pup can pick up on this anxiety and it will make the event even scarier for them. Their logic is much like a child’s; if Mom & Dad are scared or anxious, then something bad is happening. So if you stay calm, you will make the experience less frightening for your dog.
A great idea is to teach your dog to associate loud noises, such as fireworks or thunder, with something positive. If you took any psychology course throughout your education, you will remember the experiment by the scientist Pavlov. He trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell ringing through what is called conditioning. He conditioned the dogs to start salivating by ringing the bell, and then giving them food. He continued to do this for a while and eventually the dog learned that when the bell rang, he got food. Before long, the dog got excited and his mouth started watering when he heard the bell. He associated the bell with a good thing, being fed. So you can start associating loud noises with a good thing, such as treats. Since we don’t have storms and fireworks every day, you can find a CD or DVD of storm sounds and fireworks to work on training your dog. Soon, just upon hearing a loud noise, your dog will begin to salivate instead of tremble!
Finally, make sure your dog is in a safe indoor environment the evening of July 4th. Dogs have a tendency to flee when they are scared, so if left outdoors he or she may try to escape. If they are left alone indoors, make sure things that can harm them are out of their reach. When a dog becomes fearful, they have a tendency to act out their fear in the form of destruction. So make sure all electric cords, small toys, and any other item a dog may easily destroy is out of the way. Make the environment safe and comfortable for them by adding their favorites toys, blankets, and treats.
Other remedies for noise fear in dogs include medications (ask your veterinarian before trying) and thundershirts.
I hope you and your pup have a happy and fear-less 4th of July!