Dogs, Fireworks, and Anxiety — Oh My!

by Laurie Schlossnagle on 06/28/18

This time of year is so difficult for so many dogs (and people too!).  The fireworks are loud, bright, and vibrating.  Just too much for some dogs to deal with.  And in Salt Lake City, we get the bonus of Pioneer Day fireworks at the end of July too!

While we can set up a counter conditioning/desensitization plan for dogs, let's be realistic -- how many of us just thought about it in the last week as we roll into the 4th (this trainer raises her hand...)?

So, since we don't have time to do a bit of training with our dogs, let's set them up for success during the holiday:

  • Management is the name of the game!  Where does your dog like to hide?  Let him/her.  Do they prefer to not go outside once they have heard a "boom?" Plan ahead and get them out to potty before the booms start.  Does your dog like to play fetch, do food puzzles, cuddle?  If possible, and if your dog is willing, try doing his/her favorite activities with him/her while fireworks are going off.  (PLEASE NOTE!!!! Comforting your dog is absolutely fine!!!!  It will not "reinforce the fear."  If your dog needs you and some cuddle time, please, if at all possible, give that to him/her.)
  • If you are not going to be home, a few simple things will help your dog cope with the stress a little better:  set up a cozy, safe place for your dog -- my preference is an airline crate with dog appropriate bedding and toys (don't forget the water!), covered with a blanket.  Run a fan and turn on either the television or radio to a station with something bland playing (the Fourth of July coverage is NOT a good plan!).
  • If you have NOT tried medications with your dog prior to the holiday, don't rely on them solely.  Sometimes they don't work as expected.  If meds are your plan, make sure to do a test run.
  • Additionally, make sure your dog's microchip and/or tag information is current and correct, write your phone number on the inside of your dog's collar with a permanent marker for added identification, and double check your yard to be sure your dog doesn't have any obvious escape routes.
Keep your dogs safe for these booming holidays!  And when you're ready to start that training plan, let us know and we'll be happy to help!!!

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