By Iris Grimm, Volunteer & Foster Mom, Professional Trainer – It’s Not the Dog
Imagine I take you to Six Flags Over Georgia and force you on one of the extreme roller coaster rides. You know, the ones where you see Facebook videos of people passing out. 😉 Now, some of you may be completely excited about this, some of you could care less and take it in stride. And some of you may get scared to death, cry, throw up, faint, or even run away before I could grab you, force you and strap you in the rollercoaster seat.
That may sound a bit extreme for you, but that is how some dogs feel when they hear the first fireworks in the early evening hours of July 4th or New Year’s Eve. Some dogs could care less and sleep right through it. But, there are a lot of dogs who get so scared that they either freeze, shake, hide, or run. Whether a dog feels completely calm or freaked out depends on many factors – genes, socialization, environment, and also lifestyle.
So before you get too excited about celebrating the independence of your country, let me share with you seven tips that allow you and your dog to have a good holiday experience.
1. A tired dog is a calmer dog
If you know that your dog freaks out during fireworks, I recommend you to take your dog on a good long walk in the early evening hours. The more tired your dog is, the less he will pay attention to his fears. You want to wait until the sun goes down or walk your dog in a shaded area or on the grassy area so you don’t have to go to your emergency vet due to overheating your dog. Physical exercise and mental stimulation are the best cures for many behavioral issues, including fear of fireworks.
2. Take your dog on potty breaks before the fireworks start
Of course, you don’t know when your neighbors start this (for me, senseless) activity, but you may want to time the moments when you take your dog for her last potty break for the night. If your dog can easily jump your fence or if you have a fenceless yard, I recommend you to keep your dog leashed. It just takes one loud bang near your house, and your dog can be so scared that he will run for his life and won’t listen to any of your commands.
3. Ensure your dog has his collar on with current tags
If your dog escapes your home and one of your neighbors find him, having a collar on will help them to reunite you quicker with your dog. If that is not the case, many people will call animal control. Once they pick up your dog, she will be taken to the shelter, an environment that is even more fearful and stressful. Losing a dog that doesn’t wear a collar is always more difficult to get back than a dog with a collar.
4. Let your dog settle on her own
If your dog starts pacing through the house or wants to hide under the bed, let her be. A lot of people communicate with their dogs with human psychology, and that makes the situation worse. They hug their dogs, they pet their dogs, they reaffirm the dog “it’s okay.” What they fail to realize is that they reinforce the fearful behavior and keep the dog trapped in anxiety. Instead, allow the dog to do what he wants to do. If he wants to hide in a corner of your home, let him be. If your dog paces, let him until he finds the spot where he feels safe. Animals in the wild will look for cozy and tight spots where they can hide and feel safe; that is exactly what your dog is looking for as well.
5. Keep your dogs separate
This tip only applies if you have dogs in the home that may not always get along or who have different energy levels. So for example, if you have one dog that is scared to death and the other could care less and just thinks about playing and having fun, I would recommend you to keep them in separate rooms for the night. During nights like this, your fearful dog will be stressed and will not have the patience to deal with another dog. A situation like this can easily escalate into a physical argument. If your other dog is pretty chill and obedient, this suggestion may not be necessary.
6. Medications, supplements, essential oils, and Thunder Shirts
There are now many commercial products on the market that have a calming effect on dogs. You can go to your vet and ask for a medication that will knock your dog out – but, remember, you should only give medications under veterinarian direction. There are also many homeopathic and natural products available that calm your dog down. Just Google them and read their reviews. One of the latest products that can decrease anxiety are CBD oils (cannabinoid oils), but you want to ensure they come from a reputable distributor. Some people are able to calm their dogs down by fitting them in a Thunder Shirt. Using natural essential oils such as lavender can also be helpful to create a calming environment. As you can see, there are plenty of resources out there; you just have to find the one that works best for your pooch.
7. Stay at home
I know there are some people who don’t like to make too many compromises for their dogs, but they will lose all the fun of the evening when they come home to a destructed home, a hurt dog who tried to escape a crate, or a dog who ran away from the pet sitter’s home. That’s why I recommend people who have a noise-sensitive dog stay at home to ensure they can keep their dogs safe.
Fireworks are an inevitable evil of a luxury society. We can’t avoid them, but we have several options to make them bearable for our dogs. I wish you and your canines a happy, healthy, and stress-free holiday!
Iris Grimm – ItsNotTheDog.com