8 Ways To Protect Dogs Who Are Scared Of Fireworks
Many dogs are TERRIFIED of fireworks. The unpredictable loud noises (cracks, snaps, and booms) combined with the flashes of light, smoke smells, and crowd excitement are all too much for them…
More dogs run away from home on July 4th than any other day of the year. And it's well known that July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters in the United States.
Plus, of course, a scared dog running loose on the streets at night is at risk of injury and even death.
So let's talk about how you can prepare to keep YOUR DOG safe this coming July 4th.
STEP #1: Make Sure Your Dog Is Wearing Identification
In addition to tattooing or microchipping your dog for identification purposes (something that should already be done, if not, speak with your vet)…
... I recommend taking the preventative step of ASSUMING the worst and preparing for it:
This is a good day/night to make sure your dog is wearing identification tags, just in case he escapes.
Dogs exhibiting extreme fear have been known to crash through screen doors and windows, push past guests entering in a surprise burst of speed, and more. Don't underestimate the resourcefulness of a fearful dog experiencing a rush of adrenaline.
STEP #2: Exercise Your Dog In Advance
A physically and mentally exhausted dog is a CALM DOG. Make sure your dog is well exercised in advance of the fireworks, as this will ensure a positive, relaxed state of mind. The release of happy "endorphins" your dog experiences during exercise will also work in his favor to help keep him calm during the fireworks.
STEP #3: Keep Your Dog At Home
Resist the urge to take your dog along with the family to view fireworks. This can be a traumatizing experience for your dog that they'll NEVER recover from. They're not a child "missing out." And since you can't explain the fireworks to your dog or reason with them, you're taking a BIG RISK exposing them to a fireworks event.
Just make sure, if your dog exhibits high levels of fear and anxiety over fireworks and thunder and other such loud noises, and you're planning to go out to celebrate with family and friends, your dog is SAFELY locked up in a confined, indoor space he can't escape!
(Follow the tips below to the letter!)
Some dogs simply shouldn't be left alone in these situations, the risks of self-injury are too high if they become afraid, but you know your dog best. So just make this decision carefully.
STEP #4: Lock Your Dog INDOORS
Be sure your dog is LOCKED INDOORS by the time evening falls, well in advance of the fireworks. This is NOT the time to risk leaving your dog loose in your yard. Even if you'd normally consider your yard "secure" you might be surprised to what lengths a scared dog will go to, to escape: scaling fences, smashing through gates, squeezing through extremely tight spaces. Don’t risk your dog escaping. And don’t risk hooligans seeing your dog in the yard, making your best friend vulnerable to “pranks” that could cause him serious injury or death.
STEP #5: Prepare A “Safe Space”
I would suggest that your dog should ALREADY have a safe space in your home, where he goes when he’s feeling tired or anxious. But if you don’t--your goal should to be lock your dog away in a room he's already comfortable in (not the basement, for example, if he never spends time there).
Ideally in a dog crate, especially if you're planning to be out.
The room should be quiet, free of windows, and away from the firework noises.
Make sure, if there are windows, you close drapes and blinds to block out all flashing lights from the fireworks.
STEP #6: Add Some White Noise Or Background Noise
Turn on the television or radio to add some background noise that your dog will find “normal.” This will help mute the sounds of the fireworks in the distance. Adding a fan in the background can help too.
If you can hear the fireworks, make sure YOU don't react or jump when they go off. Your dog will be taking his queues from you.
STEP #7: Stay Calm
Again, your dog will take his queues from you. So be sure to remain calm and don't react to the fireworks. Behave like it's any other Saturday night at home with your dog.
If you're relaxed, your dog should trust all is well, too.
STEP #8: If All Else Fails, Consider Sedation
You know your dog better than anyone. For some dogs, fireworks are "too much."
If your dog's anxiety and fear levels escalate well beyond normal, to the point you can see it's causing him or her excessive distress, consider speaking with your local vet.
A gentle sedative for these rare occasions may be necessary.
We can't explain fireworks to our dogs. All we can do is try to protect them from this strange, annual human need we have to blow up small sticks of dynamite in a national show of pyrotechnic patriotism.
If your dog can’t handle it… don’t blame yourself.
If you’ve tried everything else, a little sedation may be the answer.
Again, though, speak with your vet.
Jennifer Boulet has spent more than 35 years in the world of dog obedience, professional show training, and breeding — and she strongly believes that every dog deserves the emotional, social, and physical health benefits that come from training. A trained dog… even better, a dog trained to do simple “jobs”… is a happy dog who knows his place in your life and home.