This Friday is the 4th of July. For many dogs, this is not a time of fun, but one of fear, or even terror. Here are several tips to help your dog cope with fireworks at this time of year.
Consider a Thunder Shirt
Thunder Shirts are tight fitting dog coats that can have a calming effect on anxious dogs. My experience with these is that they have a very substantial and dramatic effect in some dogs, help a little in other dogs and have no effect in others. The company has a 100% guarantee, so if it doesn’t work on your dog, you should be able to return it. You may also want to check local pet stores to see if they carry them, or a similar brand.
Use the powers of distraction
Turn on soothing music or the TV (avoid loud shows with a lot of loud noises and explosions). Give your dog a kong with peanut butter or cream cheese. If your dog isn’t too freaked out to play, this can be particularly helpful. Play is fun and works directly against feelings of worry and anxiety. Keep in mind that if your dog is severely stressed, these methods will probably not be enough to have much impact. In that case, you may consider medication (see below).
Research the times of local fireworks displays (many places, like Saratoga Springs, have displays on multiple nights) and make sure you are home during those times. Simply being there will have a positive impact on many dogs – it will also allow you to make sure they are safe.
Consider medication in severe cases
Do you know from past experience that your dog becomes so stressed during fireworks that you’re concerned for their safety and/or welfare? Do you live in an area where you expect to hear fireworks? If you answered yes to both questions, it may be beneficial to consider a short-acting anti-anxiety medication for your dog. This is something that must be discussed with (and obtained from) your veterinarian, so if you think this could help your dog, please contact your vet to discuss the options. They may want your dog to come in for an exam before prescribing a medication, so call them sooner rather than later. Avoid medications that are just sedatives – they will make your dog drowsy, but do nothing at all to alleviate his or her fear. Then you end up with a dog that is scared AND feeling weird, which will just make things worse.
Keep them safe
When I worked at an animal shelter, we got in more lost dogs around July 4th than at any other time during the year. Be especially careful with your dogs when they are outside this week. Supervise them in the yard and if fireworks start, bring them in right away. If you already know your dog is particularly phobic of loud noises, you may even consider keeping him or her on leash IN the yard. Outside of enclosed areas, keep your dog on leash. Find out ahead of time when to expect the public fireworks displays and take your dog outside for a potty break before they are about to start.
What things have you done to help your dog cope with fireworks?
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