SNAP, BOOM, BAM! Fireworks and Pets
The beginning of summer is wonderful. Ahhhhh.....the smell of BBQ's, sitting on the patio with friends, watching the flowers bloom, listening to the birds chirp, and then.....SNAP, BAM, BOOM! Fireworks are in the air! Although I enjoy them, my pets suffer during these celebrations, especially Romeo, my 9 year old Pomeranian. He shivers, shakes, tries to hide in our bedroom closet or our basement, and even pees on the rug. I feel so bad for him this time of year.
Sadly, many people don't understand how this affects our pets that suffer from severe anxiety and stress due to fireworks. The feeling of hopeless as pet-parents in helping ease our pet's anxiety during this time is frustrating. However, there are several steps you can take to help ease your pet's fear and discomfort from fireworks.
Desensitizing a Dog to Fireworks or other Noises:
- Download noise on CD or purchase noise on CD
- Keep your dog near you, start with the noise on lowest volume
- As the noise plays, toss treats or engage playtime with your dog
- Slowly increase the volume
- If your dog reacts to the noise as it is increase, decrease the noise to where it was previously with no reaction, continue to toss treats when your dog doesn't react or have playtime
- If your dog reacts to more than one sound, only work on one sound at a time
- Be patient, it might take a week or longer before you can even increase the noise
- Set your dog up for success and always, always end on your dog succeeding. That means even if your dog can only do great at the lowest level of the sound
- Practice several times a day
Keep Yourself in Check
Our dogs respond to our actions and energy. If we jump or overreact to fireworks, your dog will sense your fear and "feed" off of that. Keep your emotions and fear in check when you hear the fireworks. Don't over-coddle your dog or cat, doing so can reinforce their fear and if you decide touching them helps to calm your pet that is fine. As long as you do it the correct way, never touch or pet your dog or cat at the same time you are "baby-talking" to them, instead, while petting them be "matter-of-fact" in your tone, this will assure them that you are confident. Never force your dog or cat to face his/her fears, if they need to hide, let them hide.
There are other options that you can try to help relieve your pet of their fear or anxiety. Have you heard of the Thundershirt? Sold at many pet retailers and online, this shirt acts as a "swaddle" that fits tightly around your pet's body to simulate a tight hug that helps calm the body.
Holistic medicine is a great way to help relieve tension, stress and anxiousness in our pets. Try medicines like Chill Out Chews (can be given for immediate relief) or Anxietrex, both from Vetionx. Both medicines offer a natural approach.
Try leaving an article of clothing that smells like you where your dog hides, your scent will provide them comfort. Use a special toy for your dog, like the Kong, and only use it during his stress moments. Fill it with peanut butter and dog food or dog treats, semi-freeze the Kong, and then give it to your dog to help keep them occupied.
Around the house keep the windows shut and turn on the A/C (if you have it) or a fan, the noise of the A/C or fan will help to block out the noise of the festivities. Leave a radio or TV on to help block the noises as well.
There are a few other items at your local pet stores that you can try as well. The calming collar, these special collars release a relaxing scent to help soothe your pet, put the collar on your pet when the fireworks go off.
Try a special Plug In: these release a special smell which helps comfort a dog in a stressful situation. Place the plug ins close to their hiding spot or crate.
For cat owners: Please, if you have an outdoor kitty keep them indoors during the festivities. Scared and startled kitties can get lost very easily, or worse, can be harmed. This goes for dogs too, keep Fido inside!
Last but not least, never ever discipline (spank, yell, scream) your dog or cat for being destructive or "soiling" during this time, this will heighten their anxiety issues and will make it worse. Remember your little fur buddy isn't doing these things on purpose, they are only reacting to their stress and anxiousness and have no other way to express it.
Talk to your Neighbors
If you live right next door to a neighbor that enjoys lighting off fireworks, don't be afraid to talk with them explaining to them your concerns about your dog's problems. Be calm and kind when you approach your neighbor, maybe they will be willing to give you a heads up prior to lighting them off.; Maybe they will be happy to limit them to weekends only, instead of every night. It is always good to be open and upfront with your neighbor, it can't hurt.
I hope these tips help ease your pets anxiety issues during the Firework season.