This year will be different when it comes to fireworks displays. Most towns are cancelling the big fireworks events due to COVID-19. This makes me believe that there will be an increase in neighborhood fireworks due to people staying home. And since July 4th is on a Saturday, I anticipate this being a full weekend of fireworks. This could potentially be scarier for dogs.
Do you have a dog who is scared of fireworks? There are a few things you can do to make this night easier for your dog.
1. If you know your dog has a severe phobia with fireworks, speak to your vet about medication. Do this as soon as possible (not the day before)! Medication can help calm anxiety.
2. During the day, make sure you give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. Some ideas are: go for sniff walks, play fetch, go swimming, do food puzzles with your dog, play find it games and/or train some fun tricks.
3. When it’s time for fireworks to start, keep music or the TV on to dull the sound of the fireworks. Be mindful of what music/shows are playing. For example: hard-hitting rock music or action movies might not be the best choice if we want our dogs to feel calmer. Studies have shown that classical music and audiobooks can be successful at helping dogs feel calmer.
4. Make sure your dog has a safe space to go to. Some dogs prefer to hide when the fireworks start. If this is your dog, that is okay! DO NOT pull them out of their safe place. Make sure they have access to that place the entire evening.
5. If your dog prefers to be close to you for comfort, please allow that. COMFORTING A DOG WILL NOT REINFORCE THEIR FEAR! The important thing is for the human to stay calm and offer comfort if the dog needs it. Not every dog wants petting/close contact when they are scared, but if your dog is soliciting comfort, please offer it.
6. Arm yourself with some amazing treats: chicken, hot dogs, steak, roast beef, turkey or cheese. Every time there is a boom, pair with a tiny piece (the size of a cheerio) of this treat. I would do this even if your dog does not care about fireworks (that way you can ensure that fireworks stay a good thing). Please note: if your dog will not take these treats, they are extremely stressed.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July! Take care of yourself and your pups.
By: New Dawn Animal Behavior Center, Melissa Kolmar, CPDT-KA, SBA