How to Calm a Nervous Dog when Fireworks Are Goingby Jane Williams
Fireworks are an assault on a dog's sensitive eyes, ears and nose. For a dog, fireworks make no sense, and the world has suddenly become chaotic. A high-pitched squeal, followed by a bright burst of light and a loud bang, ending with the odor of burnt gunpowder can cause trepidation in even a normally dauntless dog. If you have a dog who is nervous in the best of times, keeping him calm when fireworks and firecrackers are randomly exploding in the neighborhood requires some in-the-moment remedies coupled with long-term planning.
Tire your dog out. Long before the first firecracker pops, take your dog out for a long walk. Go to the park and play fetch all afternoon, or play chase. The idea is to tire the dog out to the point where he can barely keep his eyes open. When the fireworks start sounding off, he should be sound asleep and completely oblivious to the goings-on.
Encourage a calm environment using essential oils or products made to settle a dog's nerves. Smell is a powerful sense to a dog, and certain scents help encourage calm and relaxation. Place a few drops of lavender oil into a diffuser to help relax him, and use a retail product such as Comfort Zone or Rescue Remedy to settle his nerves. The Thundershirt provides gentle, constant pressure like a hug around your dog's body, which can help to keep him calm in times of stress.
Create a safe zone for your dog. A den-like enclosed area that your dog already considers his own comfortable spot becomes a place of refuge from the stresses of the world. There, he can calm himself. Place soft blankets and chew toys in a covered dog crate or a closet corner to create this safe place. Encourage him to go there whenever he feels nervous or anxious. You can add aromatherapy in this safe place to increase the feeling of calm and relaxation.
Desensitize your dog to the sounds of fireworks. Months before the fireworks start, download or purchase CDs that contain recorded sounds of fireworks or gunshots. Play them for your dog at a low volume while he is calm, such as at mealtimes or during play. Gradually increase the volume over time, until the dog ignores the noises at a normal sound level. You can try different calming techniques during the desensitization sessions to see which the dog likes best. It's possible that when the real day arrives, the sounds and the calming techniques you use to relax the dog will seem to him to just be part of the normal routine.
Take the dog away from the fireworks. A simple way to keep your dog calm when you know there will be fireworks in your neighborhood is to take him to a place where there are no fireworks. Speak with relatives, friends or dog boarding facilities to find a place that is free of fireworks. If you don't plan to stay there with your dog, take your dog there a few times before the day of the fireworks so he will be comfortable in a familiar place and won't simply swap panic due to fireworks for panic over suddenly being left by you in a strange place with new people.
Discuss the problem with your veterinarian. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, nothing you do will calm your pet when fireworks are going off. Ask your vet if giving a sedative would be a good idea. Raise your concerns early enough so that you can have the medication on hand. Administer it to your dog before he becomes upset.
Items You Will Need
- Sound effects CD
- Soft blankets
- Essential oils
- Calming products
- Dogs can flee in a panic and get lost when people are setting off fireworks. Make sure your dog is microchipped or at least has updated ID information on his collar.
- Essential oils are harmful if ingested; keep all aromatherapy supplies safely contained to prevent dogs or children from accessing them.
- It can be risky to try to handle a panicky dog; improper handling can lead to an unintended bite. Always speak in soft, gentle tones when dealing with a nervous or frightened dog, and move slowly. Do not approach a dog who is growling or baring his teeth.
- firework image by Witold Krasowski from Fotolia.com