Animal shelter staffs know they will see increased numbers of stray dogs in the days after celebratory fireworks. Independence Day and New Year’s Eve are fearful times for many dogs. Their ears are far more sensitive than those of humans, and they have no way to know what’s going on.
Exposure to the noises of fireworks can lead later to fears of other loud noises, according to veterinary behaviorist Bonnie Beaver. Some dogs have jumped through glass windows or scrambled over fences trying to flee the noise of a thunderstorm. Others may salivate excessively, pace for hours, hide in a bathtub or crawl under a bed.
Keeping your dog calm during fireworks may require a menu of strategies.
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Drown the noise out. Play music, or turn on a machine that emits white noise. Vacuum the floor or turn on the washing machine. Turn on a fan or the television. Anything you can do to minimize or cover the sounds from outside will help keep your dog calm.
Put earmuffs on your dog. Prevent him from shaking them off by putting the dog in a down-stay and sitting with him until the fireworks have ceased. Look for the type of earmuffs designed to protect the hearing of dogs on aircraft.
Give your dog a treat reserved especially for when fireworks are bound to occur. Offer a meaty bone or a special chew toy, or stuff peanut butter or cream cheese into a marrow bone. Provide a treat toy that holds delectable nibbles — anything to divert your dog’s attention from the noise.
Apply gentle pressure to your dog’s body in the form of a wrap designed to help relieve a dog’s anxiety during fireworks or thunder. Advocated by animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin, a wrap fastened firmly around the dog’s midsection appears to calm the dog’s nervous system through application of a gentle hug-like pressure. Grandin says the effect wears off in about 30 minutes, so it’s best to remove the wrap and reapply it for another 30 minutes as needed.
Put your dog in his familiar and comfortable dog crate in a room that’s as far removed as possible from the noise. Cover the crate with a towel or blanket to create a safe den-like refuge. Close the blinds and darken the room.
Go to your basement if you have one, and remain there with your dog until the fireworks subside. A basement can block sound and help prevent your dog from experiencing a panic attack.
Ask your veterinarian for herbal relaxer options that can be given shortly before the fireworks begin. These over-the-counter remedies may work well for your pet.
Ask your vet if an anti-anxiety medication for dogs would be helpful if your dog is extremely fearful. Drugs do not eliminate the dog’s fear, according to applied animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, but they do relax the dog so he isn’t too upset by the sound.