COPING WITH FIREWORKS FEAR
July 4th is this weekend, but if your neighborhood is like mine, there have been fireworks going off for many nights already. If your Greyhound is nervous about thunder, it’s a safe bet that fireworks will bother him even more. Keep your pup safe and happy this 4th of July with these quick and helpful tips:
- Keep your Greyhound on his normal diet. Give your dog enough time to finish his dinner, digest and potty before the noise begins so that he’s not forced to hold it during an already stressful period. A nice long walk before dark will help a lot in getting some exercise prior to the evening, then maybe he will be ready for a nap.
- Stay home with your dog. Do not take him to fireworks shows or leave him outside while you go. Make sure that collar, harness, gates, and windows are secure.
- Keep his buckle collar on with tags, or if he is microchipped, be sure the contact info is current, just in case. More dogs are found wandering loose on July 4th than any other day of the year in the U.S.
- Prepare the environment. Before the noise starts, close drapes/blinds, put on some calming music like http://bit.ly/MusictoCalmYourDog, turn on the TV loud, or use a white noise machine. Or you could tune to a YouTube channel called “Celestial Sounds” or an app called “Simply Noise”. Running the A/C or a fan may also help to mask the noise.
- Give your Greyhound a safe place to retreat. If he likes his crate, maybe put a heavy blanket over the top and sides (leave the door open). You could make a “nest” in a bathroom or a closet. Do you have a room with no windows? That would be a good place to put some old pillows and blankets for nesting.
- Some dogs are comforted by a body wrap – a snug garment that puts gentle pressure on your hound’s torso, much like swaddling helps calm an infant. Try a small T-shirt, wrap an Ace bandage, or try a Thundershirt. For DIY solutions, search “anxiety wrap” or “compression shirt” on YouTube.
- Comfort your dog. You might have heard that this can reinforce his fears. However, your dog’s reactions to fireworks are based on a legitimate fear. Providing comfort during this time is appropriate and often helpful. Plus, doing so will help your dog understand that you’re his partner and that he can always turn to you when he’s feeling scared. Stay calm yourself – if he senses that you are tense, that may reinforce the idea that there IS something to fear.
- Distraction often works to diffuse your dog’s fear reaction. Try a special thing that your pup hasn’t seen in the house. Maybe a new bone or a two-dollar toy that he hasn’t seen before. If your dog is food motivated, you could take a handful of kibble for him to find, and scatter it around the house. It has to be done at the moment the dog hears something. You can’t wait until a dog’s heart is pounding and they’re having a fight-or-flight moment. If you start early, you might prevent an over-reaction.
- Try Adaptil (formerly called DAP), dog-appeasing pheromones. DAP is a synthetic chemical based on a hormone that’s produced by lactating female dogs. It’s this hormone that helps keep puppies calm, and can help calm your anxious dog. DAP products are available in plug-in diffusers and room sprays for their environment, plus infused collars and topical sprays. All are odorless to humans and other pets. Available at pet stores and online.
- Rescue Remedy or Calms Forte are oral homeopathic remedies for anxiety, sold for people but safe for pets as well. Calms Forte was the #1 go-to for our Greyhound, Sunny. Available at health food stores, larger grocery stores, or online. You can also try Lavender essential oil for calming – put a bit on their bed, rub some on your hands then pet them, or sprinkle on a dog bandanna.
In the case of a severe phobia, there may be nothing you can do on your own to ease your dog's fear. Medication may be the only answer to get your dog through the fireworks season. If your pet’s anxiety is severe, consider booking an appointment with your vet so you can discuss a medication that could help soothe your dog’s anxiety.
Remember that your dog’s fear of fireworks is a visceral response, and it will likely take a multi-step approach to help your dog feel more comfortable with the sounds.
If you have suggestions on what has helped your hound with this anxiety, please share them in the comments below.