It is that time of the year again. Fear of fireworks affects many of our pets and it is time to condition your pets before July 4th! DO START NOW!!
For most, July can be barbecues, good times at the beach, and vacations. But for a many dogs especially around the 4th of July, it signals the fearsome sounds of fireworks and powerful summer thunderstorms.
According to The American Humane Society of the United States, "so many pets are frightened and try to escape the sights and sounds that animal shelters around the nation report a dramatic increase in lost pets during the holiday." “July 5 is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters, as companion animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted.
Anxious families often find themselves searching the streets and shelters looking for a treasured family member whose fear drove him to jump a high fence or break his leash or chain. If your pet is upset by thunder, a door slamming or other loud noises, Fourth of July fireworks will be utterly terrifying.”
This happened to me years ago with my storm phobia dog. I had my dog confined to my bedroom where she was safe but one of the guests children didn’t listen to the instructions to stay out of the bedroom and opened the door. Of course, off ran my dog. She was so afraid that she climbed the back yard fence and just ran. When a pet is fearful they don’t remember the way they went in order to find their way home. The State Police found her the following day laying in a ditch in shock. Luckily she was returned to me alright. She was wearing her ID tags and back then the police didn’t take her to the dog pound. That was a great lesson for me and I don’t leave my pets alone on the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve when I know there will be fireworks. I currently have a dog with fears of fireworks. My pets are too important to me to leave them alone a few days a year when they can be traumatized. I have worked very hard with energy work, and other techniques to reduce my one dogs trauma to take a chance to let anything else happen.
Here are some recommendations for keeping your pets safe during the fireworks.
Behavior Modification can work with fearful dogs. It isn’t an instant fix but I have had success over time with different techniques. I currently have a dog that has fears of storms and especially fireworks. She had a large firework drop down at her as she walked out our door and that was very traumatic for her. Some animals are more predisposed to these fears than others. Sometimes you can use a recording with sounds of something exploding and gradually play it louder and louder while engaging the dog in some play or training activity that she enjoys over a period of days to weeks. Playing the sounds didn’t work for my dog because there wasn’t any vibrations or pressure associated with the recording. The problem is that listening to a recorded sound doesn't have the vibrations created by the actual fireworks. If your dog is food motivated you can couple a favorite food or treat with the increasingly louder sounds, so the dog becomes conditioned to understand that the loud noises come with tasty snacks. Storm phobia is harder to help a dog get over — much harder — and why is not clear. But if you want to desensitize your dog to storms, be sure to introduce the dog to the sounds of storms in the same gradual, structured way that you would reintroduce her to anything else she's afraid of. That's how you will instill confidence in the face of adversity. Again the barometric pressure change created by the storm and the earth vibrations will not be felt by playing the recorded sounds of fireworks or thunderstorms.
If you have a basement you can take your dog to the basement during a storm to help muffle the noise, Unfortunately many of us don’t have a basement, therefore, try to get to the quietest place in your house or the place your pet is most comfortable being at. Draw any blinds or curtains while playing white noise or calming music in the background to help drown out the sights and sounds of the storm. Don't sympathize or agonize over what your dog is going through, because that only reinforces the fear. Instead, distract your dog by playing fetch or engaging in some other game or routine that she enjoys. If you stress about their fear they will feel your stress and that doesn’t help the situation. As the dog begins to focus on the fun, and relaxes some maybe during the second, third, or fourth storm, gradually increase exposure. Open the blinds a bit.
Sometimes a thunder jacket (available online or at most pet stores) or an antistatic cape (Storm Defender capes at stormdefender.com.) will work. Research suggests that for some dogs, storm phobia is not about the noise but about the buildup of static electricity on the dog that causes shocks similar to feeling the pressure. (You'll often find a dog in the bathroom pressed behind a pipe during a storm; pipes conduct electricity away.)
I have had great success with using therapeutic grade essential oils, healing energy work, sound therapy relaxation music and behavior modification through PWC dog training to calm the animals. This is all part of my Pawsitive Wellness Center’s Business. All techniques can be done in the comfort of your pets home or from a distance You can diffuse the oils or play the relaxation music daily to relax the animal. This will need to be done ahead of July 4th so the dog learns to relax under normal conditions and especially so they don’t associate the essential oils or music with the fireworks or thunderstorms.
I am offering a special on the Tuning Fork Music now through the month of July and it is an easy download from my website. This has been very effective for calming my animals as well as my clients.
One of my Golden Retrievers, Jada, had a frightening experience last month with the combination of fireworks and a major thunderstorm. Jada never had a fear of storms or noises before this happened. We went outside on the 4th of July at the same time my neighbor shot off major fireworks which delivered all the colored balls of fire directly at her when she walked out our door. She started to tremor and ran back inside. We dealt with the sounds of fireworks the rest of the evening and I used all my tools including massage, acupressure, and tuning forks sound therapy to calm her.
Later in July we went on vacation in WA and experienced one of their rare thunderstorms with thunder, lightning, high winds and a down pour while camping in a tent. I again used massage and acupressure on Jada throughout the storm. She was nervous and right next to me in my sleeping bag all night. We didn’t have any more stormy weather while on vacation.
We came back to AZ in the middle of August which is still our monsoon season. During this time we can easily experience late afternoon and evening monsoons with high winds, thunder, lightning and rain. Jada loves to swim and was happy to get home to get back to the pool. The first time the beginning of a monsoon storm arrived with some high winds Jada jumped out of the pool and ran inside shaking. I was surprised for the wind never bothered her before. I now knew I had to work through her new fear or it would be something she would deal with always.
Each afternoon when we went out to swim Jada would look at the trees and sky and if there was any movement of the trees or noise she would run back inside through the dog door. I know this was serious for nothing ever stopped her from swimming before. She even ran in one afternoon when a plane flew over and we have planes fly over every evening.
I started to do therapy with Jada daily while we were outside to calm her so she would get into the pool and swim again. I did the same treatments of acupressure, massage, and energy therapy while in the yard and sitting in the pool. Things gradually got better and today even though it was windy and we had dark clouds overhead Jada got into the pool and after some therapy work she started to swim and stayed in the pool for about 30 minutes. Wow, I was so happy to see her want to swim again and enjoy the pool. I know we still have work to do to keep her relaxed and to feel comfortable but I can say that I truly am thankful that I have the background to treat my dog and bring her back to be the happy swimmer she was. It is great to know all the energy modalities I do to use to help my pets and other pets. I am thankful for the opportunity to know these energy modalities which helped my dog. I never want to use drugs to calm my animals. I know energy therapy works and is so much safer….there aren’t any side effects.