Fireworks and dogs don’t mix

Author: | Posted in Health, News, Training, Well-being No comments
A photograph of fireworks used in a blog post about fireworks and dogs.

iStockphoto by Daniel Padavona

Fireworks phobia in dogs –

Of our current pack of 13 canine rescues, I know at least half are afraid of thunder and gunfire. Probably as many are upset by fireworks. We live in a rural area, miles from any fireworks shows. However, the sounds of  fireworks carry and even at our distance, some of our dogs get stressed. And, on occasion, one of country neighbors sets off some fireworks.

Our dogs are not out of the ordinary. The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website states: “It is estimated that 45 per cent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks.”

Indeed, many dogs are afraid of loud sounds — thunder and gunfire are the most obvious. However, any loud, unexpected and unfamiliar sound can send your dog scrambling to get under the bed, or worse, running away.

The 4th of July just may be your dog’s least favorite holiday.

Fireworks are especially bad. The bright and varied flashes of lights in the sky compound the fright from the booms. And, the smell of the explosives can add to the fear. Remember, our dogs’ hearing and sense of smell are much greater than their human guardians.

Help your dog survive fireworks

Create a safe space for your dogs

Think about the places in your home where your dog likes to nap. Maybe the corner behind your reading chair or under your bed. Add a rug or blanket to that happy space. The extra padding may help muffle the sound and vibration. Hang a blanket over the safe place to help block out the light bursts.

Several years ago we had an Old English Bulldog who was terrified of thunder and fireworks.

Lucy was already four when she came to live with us and the first loud sounds sent her to the bathroom where she tried to wedge herself behind the toilet. She didn’t fit and the cold apparatus offered her little comfort.

JP (husband) got an old wooden box out of the loft in the barn, removed the lid, cleaned it up and brought it to the house. There, turned on its side and tucked under a window shelf in the kitchen, it became the “Lucy House.” A sheepskin like pad that Lucy loved fit perfectly. After that, Lucy tucked herself into the “Lucy House” at the first clap or thunder or burst of fireworks.

The “Lucy House” has remained a part of our furnishings although Lucy left for the Rainbow Bridge years ago. It’s a popular hide-away.

However, it is not safe enough for Annie.

A photograph of Annie, a rescued dog who lives with Rebecca Johnson, the K9 Muse and author of Cleo's Misadventure books.

Annie is a happy relaxed gal until the booms start. Fireworks and thunder find this dog heading for her safe nest under the bed. – Photograph by Rebecca J. Johnson

At the first boom of anything, Annie heads for the bed. There she stays, with the bedspread blocking most light, until the world becomes quiet again.

Our latest rescue, Mooch, disappeared at the first clap of thunder after he joined the family. I searched. When I raised the flap of the bedspread two pairs of doggie eyes greeted me. Mooch thought Annie’s nest was the best.

Try not to feed your dogs’ fireworks phobia

We all know our dogs tap into our moods, our emotions, our reactions. So, stay calm. Try not to tense up. Don’t jump.

In other words, “be the change.” Stay calm.

Create a distraction for your dogs during fireworks

Play games with your fearful dog. Fill a favorite toy with peanut butter. Watch a “Lassie” film together. Play beautiful peaceful music.

Tiny, our first Great Pyrenees, really feared storms and fireworks. The best thing we found was to just curl up on the floor with him until the peace returned. Keeping a towel handy for the drool was a good idea.

Then we discovered that DVDs of peaceful music and wonderful calm outdoors scenes helped him and others of the pack. Anytime a storm was coming or fireworks were expected we put one in the player and set it to repeat.

Stay at home with your dogs during fireworks

That’s what we do. Really.

Friday when many are watching the shows, we will be at home with our 13 rescued dogs. None will be outside the safety of their fenced in yard. None will jerk a leash out our hands and bolt into the unknown. None will be lost or end up in shelters.

They will be sheltered here in their forever home.

If you can’t stay at home, make the safe nest. Turn on some peaceful music.

Please, don’t take your dog to the show.

“Remedies” for fireworks and dogs and fear

Temple Grandin wrote about building herself a “squeeze box” in her book, “Thinking in Pictures.” So, Thundershirts which make sense. They squeeze and provide reassurance.

Many times we’ve used RescueRemedy to calm frightened dogs.

How do you help your dog cope with fireworks and other noise phobias?

Additional reading about dogs and fireworks

How to Help Dogs Scared of Fireworks by HOLLY NASH, DVM, MS

Vets offer tips to help dogs avoid fireworks freak-outs By John PrzybysLAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL