Dog scared of fireworks?

dog fireworks
Above: Dog & Fireworks

Fireworks & Dogs
Is your dog scared of fireworks? If so, he or she is not alone. The numbers of canines who suffer from fireworks fear (aka noise phobia) is estimated to be an astounding 49% of those dogs who fear loud noises.

Fireworks, thunder and gunshot noise were the most common triggers of fear and many dogs actually exhibit more than just one noise phobic issue.

If your pet suffers from fear of fireworks, there are short term strategies you can apply. However, long term resolution should be your goal since the problem only escalates over time.

Desensitizing a dog to fireworks and related noise is possible but it takes time and pre-planning. This means that if you haven’t been preparing in advance for the next fireworks event, you have to take actions that will help in the short term.

It is critical to get your canine into the veterinarian for an exam and some blood work first since a large number of behavior problems (an estimated 61%) are attributed to thyroid dysfunctions.

Relieving your pet of unnecessary stress and fear might be easier if you rule out this issue–or find out if it is in fact contributing to the phobia.

Dog Fireworks Fear Symptoms

A few signs that your canine is scared of fireworks include:

  • inability to eat,
  • shaking or trembling,
  • pacing or restlessness,
  • seeking close proximity to the owner,
  • shelter seeking (to hide),
  • excessive salivation,
  • heavy panting,
  • increased yawning,
  • fear positioning (tail tucked, ears back, cringing),
  • destructive behavior (chewing or scratching),
  • self-mutilation (nervous chewing or licking),
  • loss of bladder or bowel control,
  • anal gland discharge,
  • vomiting,
  • stress related vocalizations (whining, howling, barking),
  • attempts to escape (bolting or running blindly).

Perhaps you have your own dog’s symptoms to add to this list?

The overall trend is for dog fireworks fear to get worse over time.

Again, take the time to get over to a veterinary clinic for help and specific aids as soon as you can.

If your vet isn’t a board certified behavior specialist, get a referral from him or her to someone who is qualified to help.

Okay, time for some quick tips.

Dog Fireworks Fear Safety Tips

  • Keep your animals primarily inside during firework displays and for a few days to a week prior to and just after the holiday.
  • Make sure you have a tag with current information on your pet during this time.
  • Tire your pet out with good amounts of exercise the days you expect firework displays.
  • Tryptophan helps to relax and calm animals. It is found in turkey and pet supplements. Consider adding it to the diet as a temporary aid.
  • If you take your animal outside for toileting or any other activity, make sure they are under physical restraint via a collar and leash.
  • Leave your pets safely at home instead of taking them to picnics or other holiday events.
  • Play music or turn on a radio station with soothing music to help mask outside noises.
  • Buy a plug-in Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) dispenser. This permeates the air with a calming scent and reduces fear and anxiety.
  • Keep your pet busy with activities or chew items before the height of noise making occurs.
  • Visit your veterinary medical professional and ask for aids such as melatonin. This oral neurohormone often provides help for sensitive animals. Use with the veterinarians dosage recommendation and don’t try to do it yourself.
  • Flower remedies are sometimes helpful and work on an energetic level. Five Flower® or Rescue Remedy® mixes may help reduce your pets anxiety. A holistic veterinarian can guide you on alternative options.
  • Create a safe haven. If your animal is habituated to a crate you may want to provide confinement for security. Other options you may have available include the bathroom, laundry room, garage, basement, or any other “den” area. The room to choose is one where there are no windows to jump through, or where windows can be blocked off and that are too high and narrow to access.
  • Some animals want to hide and will feel safe in a favorite spot, like under the bed. You can create sleeping bag tunnel or similar option for them.
  • Plan a party and play at home instead of participating in other events. Making new traditions can be fun and helpful for your pet.
  • Consider boarding your pet at a professional kennel for the holiday.

pet fireworks cd For longer term strategies you want to work on counter conditioning and desensitization with the help of a professional. A variety of pet music CDs are available with many focused on helping pets overcome noise phobias associated with fireworks, thunder, and other loud bangs.

You might want to order the Noise phobia CD available by Gentle Leader or the F7 Sound & Vison fireworks CD.

Over in the United Kingdom a variety of options are available such as the Sounds Scary CD Pack, Sounds Soothing CD Pack, Clix Noises And Sounds CD For Treatment & Prevention Of Sound Phobias In Dogs, or Sounds CD Behaviour Therapy CD for Dogs.

Help your pet get through this holiday with the above CD and a few products you can order online or pickup through your local pet store.

For the home, I mentioned the Dog Appeasing Pheromone Electric Diffuser (DAP) (there is also a cat product called Feliway) but other options include the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) Collar or Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) Spray.

HomeoPet Thunder Fireworks Loud Noise (TFLN) Anxiety drops is a specific formula for firework phobic pets but other homeopathic products such as Rescue Remedy can help as well.

Although drug therapy and sedation can work, I prefer using psychopharmacology as the last option.

If you decide to go that route, check with your vet clinic for direction since good supervision and management is vital for success.

Be careful about how you interact with your pet if he or she is stressed.

Reassuring your pet is a good strategy but different from the poor choices of cuddling, petting, holding, and trying to physically relieve the stress behavior symptoms. If you don’t understand the difference, take a minute to read my thoughts on Can you reinforce fear?

Other effective products to add to your arsenal against this issue include anxiety wraps such as Anxiety Wrap, the Thundershirt, or Storm Defender.

Using multiple aids and taking safety precautions during fireworks display can help  your pet.

My last word? I have a publication due out on this topic soon. Make sure you sign up on the mailing list so you don’t miss it–and good luck tackling this issue.

Photo Credit: Luf SugarSkull

Pet Interventions: Right or Wrong?

Are pet interventions right or wrong?

This is a question that came up from discussions over my post, How are your animal observation skills?

The bottom line? It is your choice and very subjective based on your background.

Some people said they would speak up and others said they would mind their own business.

What would you do?

Before you answer in the comments, let’s look at the term, intervention:

An intervention is a deliberate process by which change is introduced into peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

This is the definition I like. My work has been dedicated to implementing change and it hasn’t been an easy path. However, I work in particular settings and with clients that hire me–and so don’t work with just anyone I meet.

If you want to look at intervention in the more traditional sense:

An intervention is a combination of program elements or strategies designed to produce behavior changes… *snip* Interventions that include multiple strategies are typically the most effective in producing desired and lasting change.

Evidence has shown that interventions create change by:

  • influencing individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and skills;
  • increasing social support;
  • and creating supportive environments, policies and resources.

Bold emphasis is mine. A simple passing public interaction may or may not accomplish change–at best let’s hope it might plant a seed.

Now I like the first definition but the problem with this topic and term is that it is related to humans not animals.

Intervention on the behalf of an animal is a little different because animals are considered things (livestock) and the property of their humans.

Gary L Francione called the animals as property issue, “moral schizophrenia.” Beyond legal jargon, the individual and his or her definition of  what is appropriate for an animal varies widely as would the vague cruel or unusual label.

So basically, what you think and feel about an animal or its situation probably isn’t relevant under the law and it might not even be something of concern to another pet owner.

It certainly will vary greatly if someone is from another country, different culture, educational background, economic situation, or social circle.

As I pondered this issue, I thought back to a recent interview where I think I pissed off the writer because she wanted to believe that it was wrong to allow cats outside.

Personally, I think that is an individual’s choice that is influenced by different factors.

Yes, indoor cats have longer lives, etc., I’ve written about this before.

So, sure, in a perfect world I prefer having animals live in safe conditions but also believe they need environmental stimulation, education (socialization and training) and what I call the Animal Minimum Daily Requirements:

Animal Minimum Daily Requirements

  • mental stimulation & occupation
  • physical activity
  • companionship
  • adequate and regular veterinary care
  • appropriate nourishment or nutrition
  • daily assessment and quality management
  • a suitable, safe, secure, clean and comfortable environment

Notice these guidelines don’t stipulate any nuances about inside or outside conditions, methodology of training, or what an the exact environment of choice is–those are subjective opinions and decisions a pet owner has to make.

Of course, I have my opinions but my goal is to make the best workable living conditions for the human and animal in each individual situation.

For example, if you live in a rural area, chances are your cats live outside, in a barn–or some combination between the two. I’d hope you’d get feral cat advocates involved in a colony situation but many just shrug off such efforts.

Although I grew up in a suburb, I now live in a semi-rural area where pets roam the neighborhood and visit the neighbors. A few outdoor cats do survive but usually not for long.

However, the dogs do well and all the neighbors know them and interact with them.

Since there is little traffic, the main threat to the health and safety of these pets tends to be predators.

But when people hear about pets roaming around, it mortifies urban dwellers. The interviewer was an urban dweller and she was incensed. I tried to challenge her thinking.

Obviously, if you live in a city or urban area, your pet practices and viewpoints are probably pretty different from my community’s and your pet has a whole different lifestyle than the previous ones I mentioned.

But who is right and who is wrong?

Except for some rules dictated by local ordinances, any answer would be totally subjective.

Now, as an animal person, I have intervened in different situations over time.  These interventions mostly have to do with safety or the life and death of the animal concerned.

However, if it is an owner issue, and he or she is not my client or not participating in one of the educational efforts I am involved in, I usually opt-out.

My goal is to implement change where I can and this no longer includes people I meet in passing.

So here is another question for you to ponder, what is your opinion on this in social settings– is intervention appropriate?

Remember that party situation in are you making things worse?

I ultimately had the opportunity to discuss things with the pet owner but wonder if you have faced social situations and how you have handled pet issues in the homes of friends or family.

Perhaps I’ve been in the animal behavior training and management field too long. But I’ve learned this over time, people have their opinions, you can give them information but they don’t have to accept it or even be open to it.

My advice?

  • Chose interventions wisely
  • Change what you can
  • Be the example you want others to copy

Okay, what do you think? Leave your comments below, or if they are closed, take a moment to leave a note over in my Facebook community.

Photo Credit: Joshua Ommen