“The dog is a reflection of your energy, of your behavior. You have to ask, ‘What am I doing?’ That’s the right question to ask.”
You are surrounded by friends and family. The skies are a clear blue with a few cumulus clouds dotting the horizon. The smell of burgers and dogs on the grill fill your senses with anticipation. The neighbors have gathered to celebrate the sparkly fun of the 4th of July! It is a perfect mid-summer evening and all is well with the world. And then the fireworks begin and – well, it isn’t. Your four legged family member begins to tremble and whimper, shaking as he looks at the sky.
This time of year can be pretty traumatic to a pet. As humans, we know that it is that time of year, so we are expecting the loud bangs and pops from the sky. Our pets have no perception of time, so they aren’t expecting the sudden booms.
We took some pointers from Purina dog behavior scientist, Ragen T.S. McGowan. Here are just a few reasons your pet gets anxious during this time of year:
- His keen senses make fireworks a more intense experience. Your dog’s acute hearing makes him more sensitive to the sounds of fireworks than you are. “Fireworks also produce an odor that dogs may be sensitive to,” McGowan says.
- Fireworks aren’t the same experience as a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms come with a lot of warning signs, like changes in barometric pressure and high winds, so dogs anticipate them. Since fireworks are sudden and occur less frequently than thunderstorms, dogs might be more intimidated by them.
- You can help lower your dog’s sensitivity to the loud booms. Know there are going to be fireworks in your area? Help prepare your dog by exposing him to recorded firework sounds. Note that this process takes months of effort that includes gradually increasing the volume while you reward your dog for keeping calm. It’s not a short-term fix.
- No time? Create a special area in your home where your dog can feel safe and secure during the noise. If your dog is crate trained then he may feel most secure in his crate with a nice chew toy to occupy his time? If she’s not crate-trained, putting her bed in a calm place during the fireworks might work. Try closing the windows and playing some music.
- Remember, YOU need to stay calm. “Making a big fuss around the dog only reassures him that there is a good reason to panic,” McGowan said. “Dogs look at us for reassurance so showing them that we are calm and relaxed is likely to help the dog understand that there is no real danger.”
One of the most important things to remember is to make your pet feel safe and happy. Give him his favorite thunder shirt or toy to make him more comfortable. Keep him close and make him feel loved.
Have a safe and fun 4th of July!