Thunder and Fireworks can be a very stressful time for your dog. The following is information that can help reduce that stress and help keep your dog safe during storms. Plenty of dogs that are not scared of fireworks. Perhaps they were exposed at a young age to loud noise, or are just easy-going in general. However, for those that have a scared or fearful dog, you will find listed below information to be applied early in a dog’s life, but also some last minute solutions that may help reduce the stress now.
Starting early can help lower your dog’s sensitivity to fireworks. Fear will get worse over time, handle it now. This is not a short-term fix but long term training by increasing your dog’s exposure through positive reinforcement/rewards.
Associating loud noise with rewards
- Start early by rewarding your dog with cuddles and treats when loud noises are heard.
Talk to your Vet about the use of drugs – some of these dogs/fears may require drugs before any improvement can be seen.
Schedule an appointment with a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviourist – Not every community has one, so talk to your Vet for any references.
Sound Therapy: Desensitize your dog through Thunderstorm CDs. Use this technique beforehand to slowly expose your dog to louder and louder noises, and rewarding them all along with treats and/or pettings.
“Through a Dog’s Ear” – specifically designed to reduce canine anxiety. Start using it when your dog is already in a calm, relaxed state, long before any fireworks. He will begin to associate this training with being in a calm/relaxed state. Then, on the night of the fireworks, begin the music hours before to bring him into that same state…continue straight through the fireworks and afterward as well. It doesn’t have to be loud and it has been clinically proven to calm the canine nervous system.
Sound Therapy combined with Desensitization: Fireworks, Thunderstorms, City Sounds, and Calming. A desensitizing training tool for sound sensitive and noise phobic dogs with Victoria Stilwell.
- Progressive sound effects
- Specifically-designed psychoacoustic music
- Reward-based reinforcement protocols
iCalm Dog 3.0 – portable player – A preloaded audio player
DURING OR DAY OF THE EVENT:
Do Not Take Your Dog to a Fireworks Display – leave them at home where they feel safest. Dogs have been known to bolt at the first explosion of fireworks, pulling the leash right out of the owner’s hands. This is very common with extended retractable leashes. Also, remember that dogs can change over time and those that were not scared before, may be frightened this time. It’s always best to leave your dog at home, in a safe, calm environment. Please don’t gamble with your dog’s safety by taking them to fireworks displays.
Know: It’s normal for a dog to be scared
- Dogs have keen senses (acute hearing/sensitive nose), fireworks makes for a more intense experience – loud noise and offensive odor if close
- Dogs will be startled: increased heart rate, a rush of adrenaline, and an increase in stress hormones – it makes it hard for dogs to orientate.
- Thunderstorms have warnings: barometric pressure changes, electrostatic increase, high winds, dark clouds… dogs can anticipate the change. Fireworks are sudden and dogs may be more intimidated by them.
Plenty of exercise before the event – Take your dog for a long walk or extended play time before the bad weather approaches or before a Fireworks Display.
Make sure your dog is wearing their ID tags with a properly fitting collar at all times – Even when your dog is at home have them wearing ID tags as fearful dogs have been known to bolt through doors and windows (both screen and glass). We recommend using a martingale style collar, as most dogs cannot back out of them… a technique successfully used by scared dogs to escape their leashes. However, if your dog is locked in a kennel at home, it’s best to remove their collar so their tags or buckle doesn’t get stuck in the wire mesh.
Do not let them “sweat it out” – Dogs will not learn to calm themselves, but instead are likely to become much more stressed when left to their own devices.
- Comforting your dog will not make it worse, will not make them a ‘wuss’.
- Providing positive or distracting stimulus is more likely to calm her down.
- Using frozen treats in a toy can help distract a stressed dog
You need to stay calm – That doesn’t mean you can’t love on your dog, it means that you do it while staying calm and relaxed, reassuring your dog that everything will be okay or more correctly for your dog, that everything is okay.
Associating loud noise with rewards
- Start early by rewarding your dog with cuddles and treats when loud noises are heard. But this method can still be effective on the day of the event.
- Create a happy feeling around fireworks by giving your dog a special treat or toy. Again the classic frozen kong toy is a great idea.
Keep dogs inside during the event – preferably with human companionship.
- Turn on air conditioning, if an option, and close all windows (reducing the loudness of the event)
- A newer option is a pair of mufflers for your dogs ears, helping to reduce the sound of thunder or fireworks: Mutt Muffs
Create a retreat inside for your dog – Create a special area within your home where your dog can feel safe and secure.
- A crate is a good example… placed in their crate (if already crate trained) with a stuffed kong may be enough to make them feel safe.
- Putting their bed closer to you, with windows/doors closed while playing soft music is another way to create a safe zone for your dog.
- Remove your dog from the noise or smother it by creating a safe/comfy place in an inside room, bathroom or closet (can use the crate here as well).
- Windows and curtains closed. Covering the crate may help by removing visual stimuli, helping to calm your dog.
- Play calming sounds or music. Use white noise machines, music made especially to calm dogs, or classical music to calm your dog.
Sound Therapy – Play calming music that you have trained them with in the beginning. But even if you haven’t trained them with this, you can still use this technique. Calm classical music can work or the suggested, Through a Dogs Ears, classical music created just for dogs is a great help.
Calming wraps/Thundershirts™ can help some dogs, even if it just takes their fear down a notch, they are a great tool in your Fireworks toolbox. The swaddling, a gentle, constant pressure, works like with a baby, making your dog feel more secure in stressful situations. You will see some improvement to varying degrees depending on the dog. For my dog, it definitely takes the edge off the anxiety.
Natural therapies may help with the first signs of fear. However, it may be too late for them to work on severe cases – when stress is elevated to it’s highest point. Bach Flower, Lavender Oil, DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) sprays are all effective to some degree or other… may depend on the dog itself as well.
“Providing a positive or distracting stimulus is more likely to calm her down.”