Can unnerve even the toughest dogs
The 4th of July is just around the corner, and for many people it will be a day of loud celebration.
It will also be loud for pets, and dog owners sometimes fail to realize that a fear of fireworks is a fairly common source of fear and anxiety for their canine companions. Dogs can find the sudden, unpredictable noises and bright displays of fireworks frightening. Even confident dogs can be rendered trembling and drooling at the unfamiliar sounds.
Roxy, a 3-year-old sharpei-beagle mix, was more bothered by the fireworks last year than when she was a puppy.
“She just wouldn’t sit down,” said Roxy’s owner, Palos Hills resident Roger Schweikert. “She was pacing back and forth and her heart was racing.”
The fireworks near Schweikert’s town-home in the Riveria complex on 111th Street near 85th Avenue were not even that noticeable to him, but Roxy’s keen ears picked up on every sound, and her anxiety kept Schweikert and his girlfriend awake the entire night.
Dog owners are encouraged to not change their behavior while fireworks are taking place. Most people feel compelled to baby their dogs when the dog is showing signs of fear — petting them more than usual, talking in soft voices or cuddling them; however, this only reinforces the dog’s fear.
Dog owners are advised to not push their dogs past their comfort zones. Allow the dog to hide if it feels more comfortable, and never attempt to force it to become closer to the fireworks. This can result in increased fear, and a frightened dog may become aggressive if pushed past its comfort zone.
Owners are also advised not to react to the fireworks. Jumping or tensing up can worsens a pet’s fears, and unusual body language may indicate to a dog that there is a reason to be afraid.
Dogs should also be given a safe and comfortable place to rest during firework displays, typically a place of their choosing. Some dogs like to hide under beds, in closets or even in bathtubs, and dog owners are encouraged during this highly stressful time to let them. Disciplining and directing them onto other locations can lead to additional stress.
The sound of fireworks can be drowned out by turning up the television or radio. Familiar noises can keep a dog relaxed.
The Thundershirt, available in pet stores and online, may help reduce anxiety caused by loud noises such as firework displays. The Thundershirt is a body wrap that works in conjunction with melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone.
“My girlfriend and I resorted to the Thundershirt,” Shweikert said. “It didn’t stop Roxy’s anxiety completely, but it did seem to calm her down a bit.”