Hopefully, you’ve already pre-planned your mid-week holiday this year. You’ve got burgers for the grill, cold drinks, a summer playlist, and maybe even guests coming over. If you’re a dog owner, add to the list one-on-one time with your pooch, plenty of exercise during the day, and potty time before dark. All of the loud noises (bangs, pops, sizzles) can wreak havoc on a dog’s nerves, so it’s important to plan for your dog’s comfort during this potentially stressful time. If you’ve already brought your dog inside, drawn the curtains, turned on the lights, started the music, and lit the calming aromatherapy candles, you should be in good shape. If, however, your dog still shows signs of fear and stress at the sound of each firework going off, here’s a few tips to help soothe him.
1. Stay calm and gentle. Don’t mirror your dog’s anxiety.
This is your time to shine as the alpha leader of your family. Be empathetic but confident, so your dog knows that he is protected and doesn’t have to play that role for you.
2. Don’t punish your dog or command that they “relax.”
Your dog’s surprise by all the noises would be the same if your house came under air raid. Imagine how you would feel with someone sternly telling you to lay down and relax.
3. Try distracting your dog.
This is a great time to bring out special toys (like the ones that squeak in ways that might drive you to drink). Or, special occasion treats. If you have a combination, even better! There are many toys that feature areas to stuff them with a treat where the treat removal becomes a puzzle for your dog. But, if your dog doesn’t want to play or eat treats, don’t force the issue.
4. Let your dog be in the place that he feels safest.
This might mean your lap, which could be comfortable if your dog is a pug, not so comfortable if it’s a German Shepherd. If your dog wants to be on the floor at your feet, let him. Don’t command that he be on the couch with you, where it’s more comfortable for you to pet and soothe him. Try getting on the floor with him to see if that helps.
5. Stay in an enclosed room with your dog.
Basements and man caves are typically already designed to drown out the noises of everyday life. These are great places to retreat with your dog and put on some music or a movie to help cover the erratic sounds of fireworks.
If your dog is scared by fireworks noises, be sensitive. July 4th isn’t a good time to try to desensitize your dog to loud noises or ignore them. If, in fact, you get through the holiday with loving comfort but find that your dog does get fearful and stressed by the ruckus, consider working with a certified trainer to help ease their stress in future situations.