Pets Stressed on the 4th of July
SNAP, CRACKLE, POP
Fireworks, thunderstorms, gun shots, back firing cars…. The list is endless of loud, unexpected noises which can startle our dogs and cause fearful reactions. These types of fears may develop even when you are unaware of an event occurring. Signs of stress may include pacing, panting, restlessness, shaking/trembling, vocalizing, attention seeking and hiding, but they can also display many other behaviors.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
The 4th of July and New Year’s Eve are miserable nights for our dogs; I do not recommend dogs attending firework displays. They don’t enjoy the beauty and the noise only creates potential fear problems.
Early experiences are very important for the development of puppies, and if dogs are exposed to a wide range of sights and sounds from an early age they are less likely to be frightened to these types of noises as they get older.
It only takes one scary event to ruin all the good background.
Keep the curtains closed to minimize the flash exposure.
Distract your dog by engaging them in some type of activity that captures their attention. This would be a great opportunity for a training session. Use treats to reward the non-fearful behavior.
Create a safe place to sleep through the noise. We know the 4th of July continues late into the night, so if the crate location is still to noisy, you might need to tether your dog in a quiet closet for night, no need to close the door. Closets are usually in interior walls which muffle the noises. This becomes a nice safe den for the dog.
Behavior modification techniques (“counter-conditioning” and “desensitization”) are often successful in reducing fears in dogs. This means a very gradually the dog is exposed to the fearful stimuli and taught it is not frightening by combining it with play or food. Gradually increase in volume as the desensitization continues.
One of the newest products to help dogs with fear problems is DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones). They are available in a plug-in diffuser (similar to air fresheners) or a collar (similar to flea and tick collars). They need to be started a few days prior to the noise event and continued 2 weeks after. DAP makes the dog more relaxed and more confident when they might otherwise be stressed. I have minimal experience with this product but the reports look very promising, with improvement equal to or better than medication.
If all else fails, there all several medications which can be prescribed by your veterinarian.
WHAT NOT TO DO?
DO NOT reward fearful behavior.
DO NOT let your dog go outside.
DO NOT take your dog to a fireworks display.
DO NOT punish for being afraid.
DO NOT force your dog to experience or get closer to the sound that frightens them.
This information is provided for educational purposes only. If you suspect your puppy has a health problem, please consult your veterinarian.
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Bonnie "Dr. Sparky" Kramer