Hopefully your 4th of July was filled with cookouts, laughter and an awesome fireworks display. This seems like an ideal way to spend an extended weekend -- unless you are a dog. Although the sparkly sky sprinkles are mostly put away until next year, there may be a few enthusiasts who are still sparking the last of their Roman candles. Preparing your dog for fireworks and loud noises can help save you stress and headaches.
The simplest way to handle a fireworks display or stressful event is to remove the animal from the stimulus. This can mean taking a dog to a neighbor or relative’s house that will not be hosting a fireworks show on their street, or checking your dog into a boarding or pet sitting service. Having someone present during the time of excitement who is calm and relaxed will help put your dog at ease. If you are unable to physically remove your dog from the location of excitement, place it in a quiet room as far away from the noise as possible. This could be a bathroom, den or basement where the sound will be dampened.
Acclimation is a wonderful way to prepare your dog for scary events. Small, repeated exposures, in a controlled setting, paired with positive reinforcement, is a good, long-term plan for common frightening scenarios. For example, fireworks, thunderstorms or trains. There are multiple CDs on Amazon for fearful sounds and even Spotify has soundtracks of various thunderstorms and firework displays. Playing these sounds for a short period of time and gradually increasing the length and volume as your pet becomes comfortable is the key to acclimation. Positive reinforcement through words, food rewards or toys will help your pet respond more appropriately when the real thing happens.
For some pets, sedation through medication or aids like the Thunder Shirt are needed. These tools work best when given before a frightening event has occurred. Consult a veterinarian if you believe your pet requires sedatives. To prevent toxicity, never give your personal medication to your pet. Drugs affect humans and animals differently even if they provide the same intended outcome.
Regardless of the method you choose, the goal is to help you enjoy wonderful moments without compromising the safety and health of your pet.
Using these tools in conjunction with positive reinforcement, your pet may be able to enjoy these holiday experiences as much as you do. For my little fur babies, when it comes to 4th of July, they don’t mind the noise as long as they get a treat. Happy Summertime!
If you have a question for Dr. Jasmine, email [email protected].