Make a Plan for Firework Success
June 18th, 2023
By: Niko Brougher KPA-CTP
With the fourth of July fireworks coming soon it’s time to make a game plan. Whether you live with a sound sensitive dog or this is your first firework celebration with your new dog there are some simple ways to ease the potential stress and keep your pup safe during the holiday.
Finding out mid-firework show that your dog has developed a sound sensitivity isn’t the holiday surprise anyone is hoping for. The best course of action for dealing with the potential of a stressful holiday evening is to prepare beforehand.
Create a Safe Space
Designate an area for your dog to hangout in during the evening. Your dog may already have a safe space, somewhere they retreat to when they feel frightened or scared. For my dog this was under a bed, for others it could be a covered or uncovered crate, closet, quiet bedroom, or laundry room. If you are unsure of your dog’s preferred safe space, think of places in your home that are further from outside sounds, you don’t mind spending time in or near, and your dog can comfortably fit in.
Once you have selected a safe space, add comfort items. Moving your dog’s favorite bed, blanket or pillows to the area is a great way to add extra comfort. Cozy bedding can make or break your safe space, if your dog doesn’t want to lay down and relax in the space they are going to have a much harder time relaxing. Check out one of our team’s favorite dog beds: Donut Bed.
Play calming music or add ambient sound near your dog’s safe space to dampen loud sounds. For my dog I play music to mask the sounds from outside, and place fans near windows. While any music works I am particularly fond of Through a Dog’s Ear, music specifically composed to help reduce stress in dogs. You can stream or download it from their website Icalm Pet Music, or you can find them on Spotify. You could also use a white noise machine, classical music, or another sound of choice in the safe space.
Make the safe space fun for your dog to help distract them and reduce stress. One way to do this is giving your dog new toys, stuffed Kongs, treats, or chews to keep them occupied. Check out these puzzle toy recipes and one of Training Spot’s favorite chews, the collagen stick. For some dogs just having their family nearby during the scary experience can be comforting. Make sure you are near your dog’s safe space for social support, to provide chews, puzzle toys or just extra cuddles.
In the days leading up to the festivities you can practice using your dog’s space. Having your dog hangout in their safe space before there are any frightening sounds will make it easier for them to relax when they are experiencing the stress caused by fireworks. To practice, turn on your ambient noise or music, go sit by their safe space, then pet or feed them treats for laying down calmly. You can even provide an edible chew or stuffed puzzle toy to encourage them to settle in.
Keeping your pet safe during the 4th of July is of the utmost importance. Many pets get spooked by the loud sounds and in an attempt to find safety, escape their homes, yards or leashes. Make sure your dog’s ID’s are up to date and on them prior to the day. We hope we never have to experience our pet missing, but if we do, identification will make it easy to trace them back to us. Staying home and inside with your pet provides additional comfort. Staying home with them won’t eliminate their fear, but it will help reduce their stress. Walk early in the evening and avoid going for walks after dusk, if you do end up needing to go out after dark it may be wise to use two leashes connected to a collar and a harness to limit their ability to escape. If you are looking for an excuse to get out of town, you can always avoid the commotion altogether. Taking a short trip away retreating to your favorite quiet cabin or vacation spot reduces the likelihood you’ll be experiencing extra noise.
In addition to playing background sound you can train your pup to wear cotton balls in their ears to dampen the sound. There are also a handful of doggy ear muffs on the market including Mutt Muffs dog earmuffs that decrease your dog’s ability to hear the sounds around them. Just remember to practice having your dog wear their ear muffs prior to the night of fireworks
Thundershirts are another option that can provide additional comfort during the stress of the evening. Not all dogs are comforted by the confinement of the Thundershirt or the extra handling required to put it on but it doesn’t hurt to try it with your dog. Just make sure to give them a chance to wear it before the night of incase they find it uncomfortable.
If your dog experiences a lot of stress during fireworks it can be beneficial to talk to your vet about medication. Medication support can help some pets handle the stress of the day. If you are curious about this as an option for your pet, talk with your vet to find out what would be appropriate for them.
If you want any additional support prepping for the holiday, reaching out to a certified professional dog trainer can be a great first step to getting more support beforehand. Check out some of Training Spots personal training options to get set up with a trainer or reach out to us via email or phone to get started.