Happy New Year! Here are some FIREWORKS tips. These are my recommendations for dogs and puppies who have never heard fireworks or dogs who are already scared of them:
0. (too late for this right now, but do it at least a few weeks before the net set of fireworks…get a sound desensitization CD and get your dog used to the noises using the recording and the protocol below).
But here’s what you can do right now:
- Stay home, don’t go out dancing and leave your pup to suffer.
- Play calming music or watch television
- Have a container of fabulous treats in reach (so you don’t have to jump up to get them). Toys are also a good choice for dogs who love toys more than steak.
- Whenever a firework goes off, close your eyes, breathe out calmly, grab a treat and give it to your dog (you may have to open your eyes for this). Feel free to toss a handful of treats on the floor. If it’s a toy, you can throw it. Do this every time there’s a boom and if the noise is long, just keep calmly tossing out treats.
- During and after the treat tossing, visualize your most pleasant memory/fantasy in great detail. It can be rated G, like thinking about world peace or the taste of chocolate on your tongue, but it doesn’t have to be.
The visualization step is important. I don’t think I’ve heard it suggested elsewhere, but it really helps my dog Peanut. It can also really help to actually do normal things, like lie down for a nap, wash dishes, talk on the phone, do yoga, etc. (Thanks to Kathy Seube for the reminder!)
Other tips: put on an Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt a while before the fireworks start. This should not be your dog’s first use of such a wrap (otherwise they will associate the wrap with the noises, which is bad). Use Happy Traveler or some other herbal anti-stress medication, have calming oils in the room, like lavender…
If you have enough time before the fireworks play in your area, you can play a sound CD of fireworks at low low volume in the morning and gradually raise the volume during the day. Then by the time the real fireworks come, your dog will just think it’s part of the CD.
If you really must go out,
- Take a long walk to exercise your dog before you go so that he is likely to be asleep.
- Leave him with music and/or television on.
- Leave him with a full food puzzle (or several) for him to enjoy while you are gone. If you have a Kong, you can freeze it with food or if you don’t have time to prepare that, put melted cheese in it to make it last a while. Melting cheese in a glass container that you transfer to the Kong is ideal, but you can put a 1-inch cube of cheese into the Kong, microwave for 20 seconds, and swirl it around to get it coated with cheese. Cool off before giving to the dog.