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Monday, July 4, 2011

Fido and Fireworks:
Helping Him Hold it Together

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
© Carrie Boyko
Am I Celebrating Noise or Bright Lights?

Tonight's the night--fireworks factory finale. After this the fireworks makers get nearly a six month break until distribution for New Years kicks in. What a great business, huh? Not so much for our Fidos though. Many dogs are frightened by lightening, thunder and fireworks. Our Xena was definitely on this list. She had a particularly odd habit of needing to climb on top of tables and desks. The higher she could get the better. We soon learned that escorting her to her crate ("Go Nite Nite, Xena") EARLY was the best strategy. 

I've learned a few things since those first years and yes, I'd like to share them with you. Tanner and Oliver are another story entirely, so here's the benefit of my successes, just for you:

  • Plan ahead and use your preventive methods proactively: Thundershirt, Calming Collars and Through a Dog's Ear (Music to Calm Your Canine Companion) are all great therapies for helping to quell Fido's nerves, yet they each work better when started early.
  • Another tactic that must be started early is vigorous exercise. Here's the plan I like best: Take a long walk in the morning. After rest, get a long swim or fetch game going, or perhaps some mind games or indoor training if rain slows your outdoor plan down. Later, take another walk, run or dog park romp to assure a fatigued mind and body. This all adds up to less re-activity to noise and stress and a calmer pup during tonight's festivities.
  • Choose a room for Fido's evening hang out that has few, if any windows. If he is comfortable in a crate, this is the best place for him to calm himself. Taking your pup to the crate early may be a good plan for preventing the "freak out" that often starts with the first of the loud noises. Offer a safe, durable chew toy for your dog to work out her nerves on. Add a blanket or dark covering to keep the fireworks lights from spooking him. Close any shades, curtains or blinds.
  • Now that you've played the relaxing music for several hours today, place the player next to his crate and turn it up louder. Volume will help dull the outdoor noises, or at least confuse them with other worldly sounds. A TV or radio is also an acceptable substitute.
If only I could take Tanner around to visit all the anxious dogs, allowing them to soak up his "what's the big deal" attitude. I have a theory. He was born in Florida during the peak of Thunderstorm season. I'm guessing he learned early on that thunder is just noise--not unlike that which he hears any other day of the year, but perhaps a bit louder and less predictable. Thankfully, he's clueless and it's business as usual for Tanner on nights like tonight. 

The even better news is that Oliver, having absorbed a small amount of nervous anxiety from Xena, is now learning some better ways to calm himself. Between the techniques above and 'clueless Tanner' for a housemate, Oliver is getting a grip. And that's a very good thing.

Happy Independence Day. Hopefully your pup will be able to be independent of you tonight as you enjoy some celebrations of your own.


Katie said...

Thanks for all the tips, Roxy has her calming collar on and I also sprayed this other stuff that smells like it onher pillow, Roxy goes crazy during thunderstorms and fireworks and for a few days now people have been doing fireworks and sh just barks like crzy, though the calming stuff and beingcuddled helps a lot.

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