For most of us, it’s been only two years since we last heard the 4th of July fireworks. Stirring sounds and lovely lights in the night sky. They come out of nowhere. Relentless. Rapid-fire. Getting louder as they go along. Think of how frightening and unsettling these surprise explosions will be to pets. Especially those pandemic pals you brought into your home last year.
I curated bits of advice from the Humane Society, the American Kennel Club, and the ASPCA. Plus, I added some common-sense safety tips. Not that you don’t have common sense. But it’s best to think of these ahead of time.
The average 4th of July fireworks display lasts between 15 and 25 minutes.
It is too late when your pets start barking, meowing, whining, and tearing up furniture. Oh yes, and don’t forget the possible peeing and pooping on the carpet.
Whether your cat is a Samantha or a Scratchy, and your doggie is a Lucy or a Rover, the physical exertion tied to any of these behaviors may be an outlet for anxiety.
Cats are Cool
Let’s start with cats. If you’ve got a typical cat, it will most likely run for cover when frightened by fireworks displays. Under the bed. In a clothes hamper. More than one article suggested some quiet music playing in that area. It is soothing and will block out some of the noise.
Dogs Are More Challenging
Those of us that have had dogs know they are not dumb animals. When dogs become frightened, they try to reduce their fear. That’s what you might do.
The problem is your pets can’t come up with explanations of where those fireworks noises come from. Or whether the noises will hurt them. These unknowns will trigger anxiety responses. And destructive behavior may follow.
DISTRACTION TIP: Be on the lookout for when your dog is beginning to get anxious. This is Distraction 101! Quickly engage in any activity that captures attention. This will distract your dog from behaving fearfully.
If you can, try to create interest in something your pet likes to do. Play fetch (in an escape-proof area) or practice some commands.
A day or two ahead of time, put your dog’s favorite ball or squeaky toy aside. This way the item will be available to you (you know he/she loves to hide it in places you can’t find).
Reward with praise and treats for paying attention to the game or the commands. But— If you can’t keep your dog’s attention and he/she is still agitated, stop!!!
If you continue to soothe or give treats during this behavior, such an action may be misinterpreted. Your pet might consider it as a reward for fearful behavior. Instead, try to act normally, as if you don’t notice the fear.
Also, don’t punish your dog for being afraid of the fireworks. It’s common sense that this will only increase anxiety.
And DO NOT put your dog in a crate because you think that will keep it from running around and ripping up couches. More than likely your dog will end up getting injured while trying to get out of the cage and away from the noises.
BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION TIP. If you have time, these can help in reducing fears and phobias. These techniques will teach your dog to respond in non-fearful ways to sounds that have previously frightened them.
One set of posted fireworks safety recommendations are :
- Make a tape with firework (or any kind of scary) noises on it.
- Play the tape– but start at a low volume so your dog isn’t disturbed. While the tape is playing, bring out dinner, give a treat or play a favorite game.
- The next time you get together play the tape a little louder.
- Continue increasing the volume through many sessions (over several weeks or months if needed)
- But, if your pet acts out any agitated behavior while the tape is playing– STOP. Then start your next session at a lower volume. Go with one that doesn’t produce anxiety.
Hopefully, this will help Samantha, Scratchy, Lucy, and Rover become more at ease with firecracker noises
MEDICATION TIP: If you know these other methods won’t work, some medications may help reduce your dog’s anxiety levels for short periods. But don’t give your dog any over-the-counter or prescription medication without consulting your veterinarian.
Common sense advice. Animals don’t respond to drugs the same way people do. A medication safe for humans could be fatal to your dog.
Your veterinarian is the only person qualified and licensed to prescribe medication for your dog.
One last fireworks safety thought
Just before, after, and on the Fourth of July, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) gets hit with an increase in calls. These are about pets who have eaten fireworks debris in back yards or had trouble dealing with the loud noises of Independence day. Don’t let your pet be one of them. Make preparations to help your pet get through the day.
(What type of content should your business website blog offer? Advice rather than product promotion. Be a valuable info resource rather than an irritating source of sales pitches. For example, if you owned a pet shop or veterinary practice, then you should share this type of content. Contact me if interested.)