I sometimes wonder what our pets think about our normal, everyday behaviors. Elevators for example - our dogs come with us to get inside this very small room, close the door, and the pretty much immediately open the door and get out in a totally different place. It must be teleportation! We are magical beings! Or maybe they understand it 100%, who knows? Our pets are very trusting, just content to go along with us in what, to them, is probably strange behavior.
Another tradition that I think confuses our pets is fireworks. We set explosives on fire, then run away so they don't kill us, and watch the lights. To most of our pets, these are terrifying monsters, an abnormally bright flash of light, a very loud boom, and a reaction from the humans. For pets that are already anxious or nervous by nature, the holiday weekend can be a recipe for disaster. Here are a few tips to allow everyone to enjoy their holidays with fireworks:
1. Tire your pets out in the days & hours leading up to fireworks.
If you can get your pet to sleep through all the commotion, everyone's life just became so much easier! Take your dog on their favorite, long hike the day before or day of, play with their favorite toys and do some training to get their minds too tired to think about the scary noises. Play with your cats using their favorite hunt or chase toy to add some physical exercise.
2. Keep them safe and secure.
Update all contact information on your pets collar and microchip, so if they do escape or run away, you have a better chance of getting them back. Keep your dog on a leash when outside during fireworks time and consider a martingale collar if you have a dog that has pulled out of their collar in the past. Over 30% of the pets that run away from home do so around the 4th of July and here in Utah, we have the 4th of July again on the 24th. Create a safe place for your pet to escape the noise, especially if you are having a party or leaving for the evening. BACKYARDS ARE NOT SAFE FOR PETS AFRAID OF FIREWORKS! Pets have severely injured and even killed themselves, trying to escape a yard during fireworks. A dim bedroom with the TV on and blinds closed is a good location. If your pet wants to hide under the bed or in their kennel, do not force them to come out to socialize - allow them to chose where they feel safest.
3. Use a commercial calming product.
There are calm sprays, diffusers and oils that can help calm your pets during stressful events. We have seen quite a bit of success with products like a Thundershirt that wraps around your pets body like a hug. Some pet owners swear by CBD treats to take the edge off. There is a lot on the market, so if your pet is having a miserable time, help them out with a product. If your pets anxiety is severe, you should contact your veterinarian who might recommend a sedative or other medication.
4. Train for this.
While it is a little too late at the time this article is published, it is possible to train your pet to become less reactive to fireworks. One trick is to not react yourself. When a firework goes off, don't acknowledge it, or your pet at all. Don't go look out the window, talk in an excited voice, or rush to comfort your pet. Allow them to be frightened for a moment and give them a treat when they return to their normal activity. You can also train proactively by teaching your pets that a loud noise EQUALS their favorite treat or toy. Speak with your trainer more about this sort of training.
We wish everyone a wonderful holiday season! Stay safe, keep your pets safe, and have fun!