Monday, July 4, 2016

Fireworks Freakouts

It's that time of the year when Americans celebrate their patriotic pride by blowing shit up, and our dogs hate it. Well, not all dogs. Brisbane would happily bite some safe and sane fireworks if he wasn't being restrained. Still, the random explosions, which tend to run a week or so to either side of the actual holiday around here, are disconcerting. Here's how we cope:


For dogs that aren't too spooked to eat, pairing food with fireworks is a powerful way to help quell fears or even prevent them. If you have a puppy or a new dog that hasn't been through an explosives-heavy holiday with you yet, plan on spending the Fourth of July showering them with treats every time they hear a pop or a boom. I did this with Brisbane as a baby puppy and he has been unfazed by fireworks and thunderstorms ever since. We still have treat parties around the holidays though, because more reinforcement can't hurt.
anxiety wrap for fireworks
Photo by Erin Koski


They don't work for every dog, but anxiety wraps like the Thundershirt can help some dogs feel more secure during fireworks season. I think they're worth a try, for some dogs they make a huge difference. If the price seems unreasonable, buy used on eBay. You can always get yours from a big box store with a good return policy too, if you're not sure whether it will help your dog. Or just wrap your dog up in an ace bandage.

Classical Music

"Through a Dog's Ear" is classical music specially designed for dogs. It was developed through careful study, first comparing various types of music to identify classical as the most calming, and then analyzing the different aspects of classical music. The result is what I can only describe as incredibly boring piano music that my dogs love. I play it in the car when they get antsy on long drives. I play it for the dogs at daycare when I'm there late in the evening and someone can't settle. I also play it on the Fourth of July to help everyone keep their cool.

Noise, Noise, and More Noise

In addition to our special boring piano music, I make sure there is a lot of white noise in the house when explosives are going off outside. Fans and air conditioners are great for this. Televisions are too, go ahead and turn the sound way up, just don't pick a film with a lot of pyrotechnics. Really fearful dogs may prefer a small space like a closet or bathroom in the middle of the house with their music, insulated by a houseful of box fans and televisions.

Prescription Medication

Acepromazine used to be the drug of choice for dogs with noise phobias, but recently it has fallen out of favor because it really just sedates the body, while the mind remains fully aware and free to freak out. There are actual anti-anxiety meds out there now, including a new one specifically for noise phobias. It's called Sileo, and Ranger will be trying it out for the first time this evening. Will it work? I'll let you know.

How does your dog handle fireworks?

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