Want to know how to help keep dogs calm during fireworks? Consider this:
Someone walks into your office and unannounced, without warning, said person presses the button on the loudest air horn ever. You are startled, upset, perhaps shaken, and the sound won’t stop. The person brings 50 of his or her closest friends to your office and each person has their own air horn. The sound of each air horn is louder than the previous one. This goes on all day when you work and you never know when the next air horn will go off. You aren’t allowed to leave because the office is locked.
In the course of the day, you should remember to eat and drink and go to the bathroom, where of course, the air horns could go off at any time. You should get all your work done, too.
Does this sound like fun?
Welcome to what Fourth of July feels like to a dog.
Here’s the most realistic list you need to keep dogs safe during firework Armageddon:
Get Outta Town
Rent a room at a hotel: Leave your home and check into a pet-welcoming hotel that is not located near any public firework displays.
Go on Lockdown
Secure doors and windows if you stay home with your dog. Ask most shelter workers how much they dread July 5th. It’s not fun, folks. Dogs bolt in fear as a flight or fight response. They hear and feel the noise – like that air horn at the office – and they bolt in an attempt to get away.
Call In the Cavalry
Get a trusted pet sitter for your dog in your home if you plan to go to a public display. Do NOT leave your firework fearful dog home alone. Dogs are known to do drastic things in drastic situations: Jump through windows, desperately paw at the door, shake themselves into a seizure. I have experience with the last one, as my puppy mill rescue dog shook herself into a separation anxiety seizure. I walked in on it.
Medicate With Caution
Don’t medicate without talking to your dog’s vet: Some sedatives are dangerous, contraindicated, and must be dosed properly…even over-the-counter “natural” things can cause damage.
The Washington Post reported on a new drug to calm dogs fearful of noises. The reports states, “Approved by the FDA in November under the trade name Sileo, the drug is an oral gel containing a pinch of a chemical called dexmedetomidine. Squeeze a bit of the gel onto a dog’s gums before fireworks, and as the drug is absorbed it dulls the effects of norepinephrine.”
Talk to your vet to see if this drug would be suitable for your noise phobic dog.
My dog had firecrackers tossed AT him when he was a pup and we were taking a walk. The jerks kids took off but left my dog with emotional scars. We use Xanax to keep him calm without being sedated. My dog is a family member. I would not leave my child home alone and I don’t leave my dog home alone. We stay together as a family, he gets a very low dose of Xanax as prescribed by the vet, and life is good.
Rescue Remedy for Pets is an alcohol-free flower essence that I have tried in the past. I actually tried it on myself first. I won’t let my dog use anything that is not first clared by our veterinarian. This never seemed to make a difference for him. I know it has taken an edge off for me when I tried a few droplets in a glass of water.
Wrap it Up (Or Not)
If you’ve never tried an anti-anxiety wrap, they must be tried and used when the dog is calm so he or she knows they are safe. If you put an anti-anxiety wrap on the dog when the boomers are at full blast, he or she will associate the wrap with the sound. Not cool.
You can read all about acclimating your dog to an anti-anxiety wrap by Googling. They never helped my dog. Use caution with them, too. These wraps are not an instant cure. An anti-anxiety wrap like Thundershirt is designed to give the dog a “hug” and calm the sympathetic nervous system.
A pressure wrap for dogs is designed to target specific pressure points in the same way a person swaddling a baby does. Dog parents use them to help calm a dog in stressful situations, Your dog needs to get used to it and they need to be used over time, not as an instant fix.
The anti-anxiety wraps never worked for our Cocker Spaniel despite repeated attempts and plenty of positive reinforcement. Some folks swear by them for their dogs. Each dog is different, and if something is safe and it helps your dog’s fears, then use it!
Please note: If you use a pressure wrap, it is important to get the right size so as not to hurt the dog.
I’m not a fan of blasting music or a television to drown out fireworks. If someone walked in the office with heavy metal music to drown out the air horns, now my nerves are doubly shot. Your dog is in a similar situation. Noise stimuli on overdrive is no fun, especially for his or her sensitive ears.
A Fi-Dose of Reality
Bottom Line: Treat your dog like a child who is terrified of a scary movie. You don’t expose your kid to a scary movie hoping they are desensitized to the bogeyman. You don’t let your kid watch scary movies.
Be the dog parent who embraces their dog and does their best to calm them during firework season. It’s no longer a single day in many communities. This is upsetting and frustrating, I know.
It’s 5 o’clock and the air horns are ready to leave the office. You can come out from behind your desk now