Humane societies and shelters typically take in more strays during the Fourth of July holiday because so many dogs are scared off by fireworks. Because the loud noises can hurt their sensitive ears, frightened dogs may pant, drool, whine and cower at their owners’ feet, retreat to a hiding place, or try to run away in a state of panic. Some dogs become so frightened they can crash through a screen door, jump out of a window or leap a fence. Ordinarily well-behaved pets may become aggressive, destructive or just plain unpredictable.
Besides not taking your dog to an event with fireworks, here are some things you can do if your dog is among the 20% scared of fireworks:
- If fireworks are being set off nearby, find a quiet, secure place to keep your dog preferably small and enclosed-some dogs even like bathtubs! Darkening the room can help. Crate your dog and place it in the quietest part of the home. Put safe chew toys in the crate to occupy and distract your dog. You can close the curtains and turn up the radio, CD player or TV to drown out noise, especially important if you are going to be away during the time of the fireworks.
- Remember that scolding or catering too much to a scared dog will not help. Scolding will scare and confuse it, and making too much of a fuss serves to reinforce fearful behaviors. Instead, act confident, like a pack leader, who is undisturbed by the noise and activity outside.
- Try a Thunder shirt– a wrap for your dog that provides gentle, constant pressure. It may take a week or more to get a dog accustomed to wearing one of these shirts. Don’t have one? Put your dog in a snug t-shirt. This can make some dogs feel more secure.
- Make sure your dog is wearing a well-fitted collar with securely fastened ID tags in the event he tries to escape. Better yet, make sure your dog is microchipped. If possible, try not to leave your dog outside at all, even in a fenced yard when fireworks might be set off.
- Explore the possibilities of a dog pheromone called ADAPTIL which contains a synthetic copy of the natural pheromone that puppies are exposed to after birth when feeding from their mother. When used on any age dog it mimics the properties of this natural reassuring signal, thus reducing anxiety and preventing fear and stress related behaviors.
- If all else fails, talk to your vet. There are medications and techniques that might help alleviate your pet’s fear and anxiety.