IOWA, USA — Independence Day is approaching, and that means fireworks are more likely to be set off in your area. But the loud noises and lights can be stressful or even harmful for dogs.
It's hard to watch your pet be in distress. Here's how to help them when the fireworks start.
In general, you should walk your dog in the daylight hours and avoid taking them to any fireworks shows or parties if possible. But even at home, fireworks can be easily heard and seen depending on where they're being set off.
One easy step to take that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Humane Society recommend is playing soft music or turning on a radio or TV when the noises start. This helps soften the jarring effect fireworks—and other, similar loud sounds—have on your dog.
Another way to keep your furry friend calm is to move your dog into an interior room with no windows, further away from sights and sounds. If that's not possible in your home, closing your windows and pulling the blinds and curtains is the next best thing. Heavy fabric like that used in blackout curtains will work best to block out the light and noise.
Your dog can often sense how you're feeling and what you're paying attention to. If fireworks bother your dog, the UK's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) recommends you ignore the noises yourself and try to engage your dog in a more fun and distracting activity like playing with a toy. However, don't force your dog to play if they are uninterested.
If your dog has an anxiety vest, put it on them when people are setting off fireworks. The constant gentle pressure from these garbs can help calm your dog when they're feeling anxious.
There are more long-term steps you can take. If your dog prefers to hide when it gets scared, you can work to create a safe space inside your home where your dog goes when they feel upset by noticing where they go or try to go when they're afraid, giving them access to that space and generating positive associations with that space for your dog.
Another strategy the Humane Society recommends is to create a small, dark and shielded "hidey-hole" that blocks out frightening sounds, and encourage your dog to like and spend time there by feeding them in that spot. If you go this route, make sure they can come and go freely so they don't feel trapped. This method may not work with dogs whose response to fear is to be more active.
Sometimes, measures like these may not be enough. If your dog continues to experience anxiety or distress at fireworks and similar loud noises and bright lights, consider speaking with your veterinarian about getting anti-anxiety medication for them. Make sure you give them a practice dose of the medication before the holiday or any other extended fireworks displays to ensure they will react to it well.