Fireworks Phobia & Precautions

Here are a few tips to help your dog (or dogs) cope with their anxiety.

The first rule is this: 1) Please keep your dogs tagged with your current address and phone number, and get them microchipped if you have not done so already. When you adopted your dog from a rescue or shelter he or she was already microchipped, but you may have other dogs that are not.

2) When the holiday arrives, please remember to keep your dogs indoors and ensure that there is no possible escape route. Think like a panicked dog. In their fright, dogs have been known to dig their way under a fence and out of a yard or even jump over one. Make certain that service workers who have access to your home or yard know to close doors and gates securely behind them. Better yet, delay their services until after the holiday.

3) The July 4th holiday is the busiest time of the year at shelters for taking in escaped, terrified dogs. Sadly, in preparation to contain all of these dogs — they must be held three days to give time for their owners to claim them — most shelters euthanize otherwise adoptable dogs in advance. There is nothing more heartbreaking than knowing those dogs might have found homes if not for humans that were too preoccupied with festivities to secure their own pets.

If there will be fireworks (legal or otherwise) around your neighborhood, consider taking your dog somplace else where there won’t be any noise in the area. If that is not possible, prepare a safe place in your home, such as a travel kennel or bed in a corner or closet (wherever your pet goes to feel safe). Play the TV or radio to muffle the sounds of the fireworks. It is appropriate to reassure your dog that everything is OK. Like children, dogs take their cues from us as to how to behave. Hugs and soothing talk can sometimes be all that is needed.

If you are not going to be home, have a pet sitter or friend check on the dog every three to four hours, to provide reassurance and to let the dog out to relieve himself– supervised, of course. Make sure this person understands that your dog may panic and escape if doors or gates are left unsecured and there are fireworks nearby. Dogs have keen hearing and will hear noise that we cannot. If your dog must be with you at the fireworks presentation, send a calming message that they are nothing to worry about. It may be tempting to get caught up in the excitement, but to your dog, your shouts of joy are shrieks of terror. It might help to take your dog for a long play day or walk beforehand, so he is tired and calm at the outset of the festivities.

Alex Tamaki

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Owner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer

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