Another summer season of fireworks is approaching. But, while fireworks are entertaining for people, they can cause a tremendous fear response in our dogs.
This response arises from the natural instinct to survive. When animals encounter a threatening situation, fear is nature’s way to protect them from harm.
The sound of booming fireworks stimulates a “fight or flight” response designed to either approach the danger or flee from it. In the case of fireworks, many pets are excessively fearful and develop a phobia.
The best way to deal with a fireworks phobia, is to train your dog prior to the time of year that fireworks are likely to occur. If this is not possible, there are steps you can take to help your dog through upcoming festivities that will include fireworks. Working on a long-term training plan to desensitize your dog will help.
Here are some ways to help your dog cope through the fireworks season:
- Never take your dog with you to a fireworks display. Your dog may get agitated and bolt. In the commotion and crowds of people, it may be difficult to find him.
- Keep your dog indoors when fireworks displays are planned. If possible, keep your dog confined to the most soundproof area of your home, such as your basement or an inner room without windows. Stay with your dog. Be sure that he is used to going into the room you choose, so he does not see the confinement as punishment.
- Close all the windows in your home and try to further muffle the sounds by playing music, turn on the television, a fan, or use a white noise machine.
- If your dog enjoys going in his crate, take the crate to the interior room and cover it with a blanket to further muffle the sound (be sure there is still good air circulation).
- Do not scold or punish your dog. Punishing him confirms that there is something to be fearful of.
- Do not coddle your dog during fireworks. Do not pet or reassure your dog when he is scared. By “rewarding” the fearful behavior, the response may become more intense with each future exposure to such noises. Ignore the noises yourself and try playing fetch or chase with your dog.
- Consider trying an anxiety wrap. Anxiety wraps apply gentle pressure much like swaddling a baby and may be a calming solution for dogs with separation anxiety, fear of fireworks, thunder, or other noises, and car and air travel.
- Consider inviting a non-fearful dog over to play with your dog during fireworks. Playing with the non-fearful dog may encourage your dog to join in, since he sees his companion having fun and not displaying fear behaviors.
If unsure how to deal with the anxiety associated with fireworks, ask your veterinarian for help. They can assist you to develop a training program so that next year, your pet is prepared!