As much fun as summertime is for humans, many dogs find it absolutely nerve-wracking.
Like many red-blooded Americans, I love a good fireworks show on a warm summer evening. I was talking with a friend who expressed concern about her dog who is sensitive to loud noises and what to do when fireworks displays become routine events, along with the approaching 4th of July. As it turns out, there is a lot dog owners can do to prepare their four-legged friends for the noises that normally have them running for cover.
Start by desensitizing your dog.
- Play a video or audio recording of thunder and fireworks at the lowest volume as background noise a few times throughout the day. If you see any signs of fear or anxiety (panting, muscle tension, not eating), stop and reduce the volume. This training needs to be relaxing and enjoyable.
- Pair the sounds with treats and mealtime. This allows your dog to relate the sound of fireworks to something he enjoys.
- Gradually increase the volume of the recording over the next several days and continue to pair the sounds with things your dog likes, such as playing fetch. Whenever you start a new training session, decrease the volume a few steps from where you last left off.
- Continue this several times a day until your dog can listen to the sounds at a moderately-high level without showing any signs of fear or tension.
Note: Do not attempt this exercise if fireworks are expected that day!
Always stay calm.
When actual fireworks are going on outside, don't change your behavior. Any changes in your body language or behavior could trigger your dog's anxiety.
Keep your dog inside as much as possible during fireworks displays. If you have a basement, be sure to lay down a soft dog bed, keep his favorite toys down there, as well as bowls of food and water. Putting on music or talk radio can help block the noises.
Talk to your veterinarian.
If your dog is still nervous or anxious during training with fireworks noise (both real and simulated), contact your veterinarian to see if medications may help.
Do you have any additional tips? Sound off in the comments.