It is Independence day, time for July 4th celebration with lots and lots of fireworks. In Michigan the boom, boom, boom usually starts 3 weeks before the holiday and goes on a month after. You have my condolences if you own a dog that stresses over fireworks. If your dog hates fireworks he/she most likely is fearful of thunderstorms as well.
Once you have a dog that stresses out over fireworks and thunderstorms it is a very difficult issue to deal with. If your dog is already an adult I suggest first trying calming wafers. A calming wafer or drops are veterinarian recommended. They are an herbal supplement which helps calm the dog. One of my clients told me their veterinarian recommended Benadryl. She stated the only thing she did not like with the Benadryl is that her dog sleeps a lot, so she was going to try the calming wafers. Before giving your dog any medication, check with your veterinarian. In my opinion if your dog panics with fireworks or storms a little Benadryl nap maybe better for them rather than making them suffer.
I have never owned a dog with storm or firework issues and here is my theory. First of all I come from a working dog background. I purchase purebred dogs with strong nerves. Reputable dog breeders will not breed dogs that have week nerves, it’s irresponsible. Do your homework if you are shopping around for a dog.
If you want to adopt a dog from the humane society you need to ask questions. The people who work at these kennels know their dogs very well. Do not go by looks. You may end up with a lot of issues. Ask them about the nerve of the dogs; tell them you want a family pet that is confident and not scared of inanimate objects and sounds. The staff at the humane society will be able to show you several dogs that meet your needs. If they say all the dogs have no issues, walk away. If you don’t, you will end up spending a lot of money at Adams K-9 trying to fix issues you could have avoided in the first place.
Now, if you have a puppy, find a gun range somewhere to work with your pup. Begin 100 yards away and just play fetch, play the chase me game or do some obedience with lots of treats. The trick is you want to teach your pup good things happen when they hear pop, pop, pop. I play with the dog for about 10-15 minutes and then we leave. The following week we do it again but a little closer. After a month you can be fairly close to the gun fire and the dog should show little or no reaction.
Whatever you do, if your pup shows fear of a thunderstorm or gun fire, Do Not Give Affection; no comforting, no petting, no eye contact. Do not say, “Oh it’s gonna be okay”. Giving affection when the dog is in an unbalanced, fearful state of mind is interpreted by the dog as, praise. You are communicating to the dog, “This pleases me that you are fearful”. Wanting to the please you, the dog will show more fear next time. You have to be tough. No touching, do not allow the dog in your lap if they are fearful. Tell them to go and lay down. You will be helping the dog by being a firm leader.
There are CD’s you can purchase to desensitize your dog. Many working dog breeders play these CD’s during the first 7 weeks of life of the pup. These CD’s have all sorts of sounds; gun fire, sirens, crashing sounds, thunder, you name it. It plays all day long for 7 weeks. I believe these CD’s are helpful if introduced to the dog at a young age. Once they are an adult I believe it’s too late to try desensitizing. The harm has already been done.
Hopefully you can enjoy the 4th with your dog and family. If you are boarding your dog and they are fearful provide a veterinary approved therapy for your dog to help them relax. Boarding can be stressful for dogs if they are not familiar with the kennel. Add a thunderstorm in the mix and your dog will panic. Let’s help them cope with their issues and survive the storm.