Fear of Fireworks? Keep Your Dog Safe and Relaxed on July 4th
By Amy Robinson, CPDT
For most of us, the Fourth of July holiday brings up happy memories of barbeques, family get-togethers and best of all, fireworks. While we may enjoy this noisy holiday, many of our dogs are traumatized by the fireworks. I have had first-hand experience with fear responses in dogs. It is very common for dogs to be fearful of noises from sources unknown to the dog, such as cars backfiring, thunder and especially fireworks. In fact, rather than getting used to noises over time, as dogs age, the fear usually increases.
It can be a pitiful sight: your dog worried and cowering from the fireworks noise, but refrain from comforting him. Our natural response is to pet and soothe our dogs, but from the dog’s point of view, it is interpreted as approval of his fear reaction. Instead, ignore the noise completely, because your dog is a good study of body language and will be watching your reaction closely. My dog, Bella, was always afraid of any popping noise, such as fireworks make, so we would draw the blinds, put on soft music to muffle the sound, and talk normally to put her more at ease. Try giving your dog a safe and secure hiding place, such as an interior bathroom with no windows or a walk-in closet, but leave the door open so the dog doesn’t feel too isolated.
If you are heading out to a backyard barbeque, resist the temptation to bring your dog. People start blowing off their firecrackers in the early afternoon, and sometimes the day before, so you are almost certain to have a frightened dog on your hands. Instead, take your dog out well before dark for a quality walk, and make him comfortable for the night.