If you’re a dog lover you probably enjoy having your furry friend accompany you to picnics, festivals and other holiday activities. The 4th of July is one holiday that is most troublesome for many dogs. Guess why? Fireworks. We love them. Usually dogs don’t.
Even a confident dog with no prior history of sound sensitivity can find the loud, unpredictable flashes of light, pop, sizzle and crackling of fireworks extremely frightening. And fear can generalize to other sounds pretty quickly. Quite a few of my in-home private training clients have called because of their dog’s sensitivity to a particular sound.
Here are a few things you can do to help minimize the stress a dog often experiences from the sound of fireworks and to help keep him safe:
Leave your dog at home. The best of all options. If you want to enjoy the sights and sounds of a fireworks display, your dog is best in the safety and comfort of his or her own home. You can then enjoy a good time while knowing your furry friend is resting peacefully without worry from the unpredictable sights and sounds.
However, even if you’re at home or your dog is home alone there are likely to be fireworks in the neighborhood. Close your windows to muffle the sound, turn up the volume on the television, or play some calming music. Research shows that soothing, classical music has a calming effect on most dogs. “Through a Dog’s Ear” is a clinically researched series of auditory CDs to help dogs with anxiety. White nose is also a very good idea. It’s been the best management tool for us with our own dog, Cody, when gunshots (we live in the country), fireworks or thunder are present. We use sound CDs from Pure White Noise.
Desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks. Depending on your dog’s sensitivity to sound, this could take days, weeks, perhaps months. Find a video or recording of fireworks and play it at a very low volume several times a day while feeding really yummy food to your dog. If your dog is a tug hound, then playing tug or other fun games your dog loves while the recording of fireworks is in the background is a good way to desensitize a dog to the sound. If at any point in time you see signs of stress in your dog, lower the volume. As the dog becomes comfortable with the low level sound, gradually raise the volume and repeat the process.
Make sure your dog has on collar and ID tags. This is true if you’re out of doors or inside your home. Dogs with extreme sound sensitivities have been known to bust out of crates, windows or doors in an attempt to escape from the sound. Certainly we want to prevent this, but if your dog does escape, collar and ID will aid his return to you.
Wherever you go and what ever you do, please be sure to keep your dog’s safety and comfort in mind. If in doubt, err on the side of caution so that your best friend stays relaxed, happy and safe.
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level 2, a dog*tec Professional Dog Walking Academy Instructor, a Peaceable Paws Canine Behavior & Training Academy Instructor and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities for dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. www.coldnosecollege.com