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Surviving Independence Day and fireworks with your dog: Start to prepare now

Don't react when your dog shows fear over thunder or fireworks. As much as we want to cuddle and hold them, that only reinforces their fear.

Whether you have a 12-pound or a 120-pound bundle of canine cuteness and love, fireworks and thunderstorms can have them dashing right into your lap. Some dogs hide, others dog cry and whimper and display stressed behaviors, and some dogs bolt through screens or dig under fences just to get away from the noise.

There are ways, however to survive the Independence Day fireworks and celebrations with Fido, but the work starts now - not on July 4th. Dogs don't speak the same language as humans, but they do read our body language very well. Unfortunately we cannot explain to our canine friends that fireworks are a fun although very loud way we Americans celebrate our freedoms; all that Fido knows is the noise and the flashing lights are scary.

While our first reaction is to cuddle them and say everything is okay when they shiver and shake from the noises of thunder or fireworks, animal behaviorists say that only reinforces the fear. As hard as it might be, not to pick them up, more effective management of their fear is to ignore the behavior and place as little significance to it as possible. As dogs continue to pick up on their human's energy, it would make sense if their human companion isn't scared, then it all must be alright. A better solution is to desensitize pets from the noises and lights several days before July 4th fireworks begin:

  • Purchase or create a video recording of fireworks and play them at a very low noise level volume for a few days in the presence of your dog.
  • Each time you play the recordings, use treats, playtime, games, brushing, or anything your dog especially finds fun.
  • Everyday raise the volume just a little bit, and still continue pairing the rewards with the noise.
  • If at anytime your dog begins to show fear again, drop the volume and continue the positive reinforcement.

Some pet parents have purchased specially designed music developed by behavior scientists and veterinarians which can drown out the offensive sounds of the fireworks and replace them with concert piano music calming to pets.

Another very practical way to minimize the stress of a "loud" holiday such as July 4th is to provide your pet with exercise. Take him for a long walk, play fetch, go to the park; tired dogs are less stressed dogs.

And on July 4th, for the pet parents of the nervous pooches, don't change your behavior, don't jump or tense up when the fireworks start. Turn the television volume or radio volume up a bit, close the blinds to block out the flashing lights for your dog, and if he wants to hide - let him. Make sure your pet is micro chipped and wearing a collar with identification.

As a last result, ask your veterinarian to prescribe an anti anxiety medication. also suggests the use of electromagnetism:

"Though it may sound like voodoo, some experts believe your pet can become sensitized to the electromagnetic radiation caused by lightning strikes. One possible way to shield your dog or cat from these potentially fear-provoking waves involves using commercial products such as calming collars or storm shirts/capes."

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