Tips To Keep Your Pet Calm During Fireworks

People normally love fireworks.  They are used for celebrations, afterall.  Our pets, on the other hand, do NOT love them.  They are loud. They are invasive to their peace of mind.  They are terrifying.  Now, not all pets fall apart when they see and hear the fireworks going off.  In fact, I have had one dog in my lifetime that would stand there and watch them with me.  He would freak out and bark at the furniture if you rearranged it, but he loved fireworks (love you Peanut!).    Most pets do not like fireworks or thunderstorms, so we as their humans, have to figure out a way to keep them calm and safe during these events.  Some of the tips below will require some on-going training, but most are solutions you can implement during the event.

Let’s start with the basics of recognizing when your pet is getting stressed and anxious:

  1. Chewing or destructive behavior
  2. Barking or crying or whining
  3. Restlessness, pacing
  4. Excessive licking
  5. Aggression
  6. Loss of appetite, refusal to eat
  7. Trembling or shaking
  8. Excessive panting
  9. Excessive drooling

 

The safety and comfort of your pet is the most important thing to think about during times of the year when there will be storms or fireworks.  You need to make sure that their environment provides them a place to feel safe and be secure. Here are some tips to use before and during an event, as well as some training tips for the future.

  1. Secure fences and gates – make sure there are no holes in the fence that your pet can get through if they panic; make sure gates are secured and locked and can’t be burst through; make sure there are no areas around the foot of fencing that your pet can slide under; make sure your fencing is high enough that it can’t be jumped over.
    • If you can not fix or secure the fences and gates around your home, then think about making alternate arrangements for your pet during fireworks season
      • See if a friend or relative can keep your pet during the fireworks show
      • Make arrangements at a dog daycare facility or boarding facility
      • If you can’t be at home with your pets during a fireworks show, consider hiring a pet sitter to come to stay with your pet.  That way your pet will have proper supervision and reassurance that everything is going to be ok.
  2. Make sure your pet has some kind of identification on them in case they do escape your home or yard.  And have a recent photo to show people if you have to search for them.
  3. Create a safe spot in your home – even if you are going to be home during a fireworks show and/or your pet is afraid of storms – you should have a “safe spot” that your pet has access to at all times.  Examples of areas they would feel safe in would be crates, kennels or even an area under a bed.
    • Other ways to make your home feel safe during a storm or fireworks show:
      • Close the windows, blinds and/or curtains to lower the amount of visual stimulation.
      • Turn on some music or the TV to distract from the noise of the fireworks or thunder
      • Reassure your dog with a soothing voice.  They are scared, they are looking to you for reassurance – give it to them!
      • Stay calm.  Pets are always tuned into our emotions, body language, and tone of voice.  They will be calmer if you are.
  4. Take care of business before the fireworks show.
    • Feed and water your dog before the scheduled fireworks show.  Your pet will probably not want to eat or drink during a storm or fireworks show.  Being hungry or thirsty while they are stressed or anxious will just make it worse.  Make sure they have time to go outside to do their business too – cause you know they won’t want to go outside during a storm or fireworks show.
    • Tire your dog out with a nice long hike or game of fetch before the fireworks show.  You want your dog as tired and worn out as possible so they can stay calmer.
    • If you know exactly when fireworks are going to start or have enough warning of a storm, you can try some natural solutions for easing your pet’s anxiety.
      • CBD Oil
      • Herbs – Chamomile, Valerian, St John’s Wort
      • Homeopathic Remedies
      • Bach Flower Essences
      • Essential Oils
      • Hydrosols
      • Dogs Naturally Magazine has more information and dosage recommendations here.
      • I have to admit that I am not a big fan of pharmaceuticals – no judgment – just be sure to do your homework regarding side-effects and possible harm they can do.  Always be ready with questions when you speak to your vet about them.
  5. During the Fireworks show or thunderstorm:
    • Give your pet something to do – stuffed kong, nice new bone, bully stick, or play a puzzle game with them!
    • Do some training to keep their mind distracted from the big booms.
    • ThunderShirts are a terrific thing to have in your pet “Bag-O-Tricks”.  They use compression to ease the stress a pet is feeling – I am not sure of the exact mechanics, but I have seen it work!
    • Sitting close to your pet, petting them gently and speaking to them in a calm and quiet manner help to reassure your pet that everything is going to be ok.
    • Muffle the sound by playing a white noise machine or turning on calming music loud enough to drown out the noise.
  6. Training
    • Sound training.
      • This is meant to desensitize your pet to the noises of fireworks or thunder and is done gradually over time.
      • You can purchase (or find some free online) fireworks sound effects that you begin playing at a very low level for short periods of time while feeding your pet small, tasty treats and give them tons of praise.  To begin with you, only play the sound effects for 1 minute and at a very low volume.  You will increase the time and volume as your pet gains confidence.  You will want to do some research on the best training plan for this or contact a professional trainer who has experience with desensitization.
    • Swaddling Garment Training – ThunderShirts, AnxietyVest, Stretchy Fabric
      • Before any storms or fireworks shows occur, you should put the compression garments on your pet to get them used to wearing them.  You don’t want to try and wrestle your pet into something they are not used to while they are panicking or anxious – the whole point is to have them calm down and relax and have a positive association with the garment.

 

Want a helpful infographic to post on your fridge for later?  Click here!

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