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Loud noises and sounds can really freak dogs out, and a fireworks show is probably the worst noise monster a fearful dog can face. I like to get dogs ready for Fireworks way ahead of time. I have seen many scared dogs have a successful 4th of July with training for the fireworks not training when they are happening. If you know a night of fireworks is coming up, here are some ways to help your dog stay a little more comfortable.
Plan ahead. It’s a good idea to check for the dates of the community fireworks displays during celebratory seasons, and make sure your dog’s collar ID and microchip registration are up to date. Check out some of the fireworks this year. I am sure there are more coming. Fireworks
Create distance. When you know a firework display is scheduled nearby, or you see your neighbors setting up for a display, ask a friend if you can bring your dog over for an evening chat or movie – unless your dog finds trips even more stressful. We have neighbors who always set them off. One year I thought our roof was going to catch fire. So, I like to stay home make sure Sasha has her Calm K9, and put the TV up a tad louder.
Set up a quiet safe space in your home where your dog is comfortable and the sound of fireworks is muffled, like a finished basement or an internal room like a walk-in closet. Sometimes Sasha will take herself upstairs under the bed. Spend time with your dog there, with toys and treats, well before fireworks season begins. I like to make sure her lick mat is full of her favorite foods, and that it is frozen to keep her busy.
Desensitize your dog by playing a recording of fireworks at a very low level for short periods, multiple times a day, and rewarding calm behavior with treats. If your dog is extremely fearful of noises, before taking this step, think about consulting an experienced dog behaviorist for the expert guidance I have a free eBook at the end of this article
Go for a long walk well before dark. A happily tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Exercise your pup with training games enrichment is a super way to make your dog nice and tired or a long walk so they are ready to nap when night falls. Make sure their collar or harness is slip-proof because some people celebrate with firecrackers and other noisemakers before darkness falls.
Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound and block out flashes of light.
Turn on the TV, music, or white noise like a fan, to provide a familiar, alternate sound. Make sure whatever you use is already familiar to your dog – even fans can be anxiety-causing if they are fired up without warning. I use calm spa-like music if she goes under the bed.
Try an anxiety wrap. Soft, stretchy jackets and vests built specifically for a dog’s shape are reported to be effective at reducing anxiety. I suggest you slowly introduce your dog to their coat well before fireworks season descends.
Don’t fuss over your dog. I know it’s hard not to be upset when you see your dog distressed, especially when you know they are safe. However, if you frantically console them, or make angry comments about inconsiderate neighbors, your distress or anger can strengthen your dog’s belief that something is wrong. You can certainly soothe your dog but do so in a calm, reassuring, and positive manner. When Sasha is upset, I like to use our training game DMT. We do this regularly so she knows to be calm.
Gently distract your dog. Turn those fireworks into background chatter by engaging in normal fun activities like playing with a toy, running through training exercises, or inviting your dog on the couch for a movie night. But don’t pull your dog out from a safe space they have chosen and force your dog to play if they would rather hide.
Consult a professional. Is your dog’s quality of life suffering, or are they so panicked they could injure themselves, or you, while trying to escape? Dog trainers, dog behaviorists, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists can offer a range of options from counterconditioning to medication. I recommend my mentor who I trained under firstname.lastname@example.org. DR. Tom Mitchel. I personally know so many people he has helped including Sasha and I. Mention my name and if need be, I can get information and help you out locally.