The 4th of July: Many Canines Have Little Reason to Celebrate
When I was a teenager, I had an American Staffordshire Terrier that had nerves of steel every day of the year except for one day, the 4th of July. On that day he turned into a scared little puppy looking for a corner to hide in. Many dogs like my Pete have noise phobias and the loud banging produced this time of year by fireworks can be extremely stressful. Here are a few suggestions that have helped other dog owners with noise phobias.
- Slowly expose the pet to the sound that the pet is afraid of at very low volumes – this conditioning should be pretty easy to do these days by simply searching the internet for the sounds such as fireworks, thunder, etc. Start with the sound volume that is barely audible then over a period of several days gradually raise the volume. During this exercise it may be helpful to toss a ball around or give the pet a treat so the noise begins taking less and less of an importance.
- If you don’t have time to desensitize your pet as suggested above and you find yourself unprepared, try not to show any reaction yourself to the fireworks so as not to reinforce that the noise is an issue. If possible, playing music on the stereo or finding another source of noise that your pet is not afraid of may somewhat partially drown out the fireworks.
- This is not the time to punish or discipline your pet. Showing calmness yourself is generally the best approach. Pushing your dog beyond his ability to cope with the stress may do more harm than good.
- Many people have actually found a product called Thundershirt extremely helpful in relieving anxiety and phobias. This product is like a chemical free constant “hug” and many dogs respond very positively to this mild physical pressure on the body.
- Some over the counter medication such as Calming Collar, Composure liquid, Comfort Zone, and HomeoPet Anxiety along with behavior modification may provide some relief for certain dogs with noise phobias.
- In certain difficult cases if your dog does not respond to behavior modification alone or with an over the counter remedy, it may be time to call the veterinarian for more advice or to possibly prescribe some medication. Some medication that are commonly prescribed for noise phobias include clomipramine, amitriptyline, acepromazine among many others. Your veterinarian is the best person to diagnose and prescribe the appropriate therapy. Developing a good relationship with your veterinarian is extremely important and is one of the best things you can do for the well-being of your pet.
Although this time of year could be stressful for you pet, with a little preparation and planning there is no reason why your pet can’t begin enjoying rather than fearing the 4th of July. One of the key things is not to react to the fireworks as to not reinforce the behavior in your pet and most importantly — have fun yourself !! Dogs in particular are very in tune to your emotions; if you’re cheerful and having a good time your dog is more likely going to become relaxed and begin having fun also.