Independence Day or The Fourth of July, as it’s often called, is fast approaching with the impending rain of amateur explosive devices that accompany this holiday. I’ve reached the ripe old age when I no longer feel the need to burn up big hunks of disposable income on incendiary devices, but I’m not too old to recall when I considered this a wonderful form of recreation. I have to remind myself of this so I don’t get irritated at the folks who still enjoy celebrating with gunpowder.
As dog owners most of us recognize the challenge that The Fourth presents to our dogs in the form of big, loud, scary noises that can happen at any time. I thought it might be a good idea to list some of the things we do to cope with the challenge so that others can use this info to make the holiday a little less frightening for their dogs. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list so I hope you’ll chime in with your tips too.
My favorite strategy is to drive to a less populated area or perhaps a State Park that does not allow fireworks. This method has the added advantage of turning a bad experience into a vacation!
Make your dog’s crate available to him and cover it with a thick, sound absorbing cloth. (See?… another great reason to crate-train your dog!)
De-sensitize your dog to the sound of gun fire. (This needs to happen long before the 4th)
Counter condition your dog to eliminate the fear of loud noises. In other words, spend the weekend with a bag of tasty treats and offer Fido a treat every time there’s a big, scary noise. Be careful not to reinforce the fear itself! (Timing, Timing, Timing!!!)
Try a Thundershirt or other tight fitting garment to help reduce anxiety.
Try one of the herbal concoctions designed to reduce anxiety in dogs.
Get some doggie downers from the vet and send Fido off to Lala Land for the weekend. This is my least favorite option, but I have seen dogs that are so fearful of fireworks that this is the only reliable method to keep them from having an emotional meltdown.
Whatever you do, don’t reinforce the fearful; behavior by offering treats or other rewards for fearful behavior!
This is just a short list of some of the methods I’m familiar with. I’m eager to see what others do to make this holiday less of a burden for our dogs. Do you have strategy for helping your dog cope with fireworks fear? Please share it!