The 4th of July holiday is fast approaching….mere days away! It saddens me each year on July 5th to read the numerous posts about dogs being lost on the 4th of July. This can be prevented. While you may want to take your furry friend with you to a fireworks event, the best advice I can give you is: leave him at home.
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.
Give your dog something to do. Get out an interactive puzzle toy and enjoy some fun time together or give your dog a well-stuffed Kong if you plan to be away. Because we have a very sound sensitive dog, there’s no place we’d rather be than home with him to ensure his comfort. And we’ll be armed with all sorts of stuffed Kongs and other things he enjoys so that we do our best to keep him emotionally comfortable. Just call us the Stay at Home Gang.
Desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks. Depending on your dog’s sensitivity to sound, this could take days, weeks, perhaps months. Pairing the scary sound with something extremely enjoyable to your dog, can help change the dog’s emotions about the sound from a negative feeling to positive feeling. Find a recording of fireworks and play the recording 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. You 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, CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level 2, a dog*tec Professional Dog Walking Academy Instructor, and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina, with additional locations in Atlanta, Georgia and the Space Coast of Florida. 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