Fireworks and Frantic Fidos

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WHIZ! BANG! POP! WHEEE!

It is almost the 4th of July and the fireworks are about to begin! This is a time for great excitement and family fun! Unfortunately, it can also be utterly terrifying for your dog.

The loud sounds that fireworks make, along with the bright flashes of light, are foreign to your dog. They have no idea what these things are; I imagine that they probably perceive them as some sort of cataclysmic natural event.

A scared dog, or any animal for that matter, can run blindly from the thing that frightens them. After the 4th of July, shelters are inundated with dogs that have fled their yards, homes and slipped their collars because of the fear that fireworks instill. The lucky ones end up in the shelter, some dogs never make it that far.

While fireworks seem pretty commonplace to us, this kind of experience is traumatic for the dog and result in increased fear at the next event. Worse, it can generalize to other sounds, like thunder and even big trucks.

The best solution is to prevent a problem from occurring. Here are some tips to help minimize the stress for your dog:

  1. Keep your dog sheltered inside the house. Even a fenced yard won’t be able to contain a completely terrified dog.
  2. Don’t try to ‘socialize’ him to fireworks by taking him to the event. He doesn’t want to see them, trust me.
  3. Close the shades, curtains or blinds to minimize the flashes and burst of light. You can even opt for the basement if you have one.
  4. Turn on air conditioning, music or the television to try and muffle the sounds.
  5. Have a doggie party! Remember all those left over BBQ hot dogs and burgers? Cut them up and celebrate the 4th with your dog by tossing around the bits for him to find.  This is also a good time for the yummiest Kong ever!
  6. Check to ensure that your pet’s identification tags are on their collar and up to date, just in case.

If your dog is already afraid of loud sounds, you can help them through it by using a “Thundershirt”. This pressure garment can help dogs relax. It is available everywhere. You can also use Comfort Zone D.A.P. This diffuser contains a synthetically produced pheromone that mimics the one secreted by lactating females.

If despite your best efforts, your dog becomes afraid, by all means, comfort them. Too many ill-informed sources advise that “babying” your dog will ‘reinforce their fear’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You can not reinforce an emotion the same way you reinforce a behavior. You can however, help change their emotional state by giving them or doing things that they enjoy. Here is a link to a very fine explanation of this by Patricia McConnell: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/you-cant-reinforce-fear-dogs-and-thunderstorms

Good luck and enjoy the summer!!!

 

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