The little champ :)
When we're home for the Fourth of July, Mike and I love chasing fireworks shows. Just after dusk, we'll pop our heads outside and listen and watch for "big bangs" and then hop in our car to pursue the show. Fireworks are one of my favorite parts about the holiday, but for many dogs they rouse paralyzing fear.
Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend the Stress & Anxiety Seminar at Two Bostons, presented by A Sound Beginning. The women of A Sound Beginning covered so much valuable information. They broke down the difference between fear and anxiety and then went on to focus on some of the most common dog phobias during this time of the year - storm and noise (e.g., fireworks) phobias. Most importantly, I learned about several ways to manage those phobias, which I'd love to share with you...
Play hide-and-seek. When the chaos begins, allow your dog to seek out his or her safe spot. Maybe that's the corner of a closet, underneath your bed or in the bathtub. Hiding is a normal and acceptable coping method. If your dog doesn't already have a particular haven, encourage him or her to retreat to an area of your home without any windows. If you can't avoid windows, at least close any window treatments or try leaving the lights on to minimize firework flashes. Note that it's also a good idea to practice enjoying the safe spot before the fireworks begin. That way, your dog has already built a positive association with the area.
Have a jam session. Muffle outside noises by playing soft music. Think soothing piano pieces with slow tempos. Browse Through a Dog's Ear to get a better idea of tunes that work. Sound machines or other white noise makers are also effective.
Keep calm and carry on. You can and should comfort your dog during stressful moments, but avoid the "it's okay" syndrome because the associated tone often inflicts extra worry. Chat about anything else except the fireworks. Gossip about the neighborhood squirrels or contemplate what the mailman is actually up to ;) You should also avoid constant petting. Instead, aim for long, slow and soothing strokes on your dog's back.
Sniff around. Dogs like nice smelling things, too. Just like with humans, certain essential oils may provide positive calming effects to dogs. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is another scent that may put your dog at ease. DAP is a scent that mimics a pheromone that mama dogs emit to calm their puppies. How sweet is that?
Try a Thundershirt. Thundershirts work by applying a constant pressure to the dog's torso, which in turn causes their muscles to relax. A few of our family members swear by the shirts.
Pretend you're a masseuse. A few simple techniques can go a long way. Check out the Basics of Massage for Your Dog video and the TTouch for Stress Relief video for a more specific move, both by Animal Community Talks.
Practice yoga. The concept of "relax on a mat" is simple, but does require some training. However, once this method is mastered, the mat can be taken into almost any environment and acts like your old baby security blankie.
Don't say no to drugs. If all else fails, know that one-time doses exist and may help extreme tempered dogs get through a stressful night. Talk to your vet to discuss potential treatment.
Woof! (Hey, there!) Pierogi, Gilly and Sarah here. Thanks for stopping by our dog blog. We're a little dog-obsessed around here and Pierogi & Co. is all about inspiring you to enjoy the dog days. Because life's more fun with your best (furry) friend by your side. So grab a bone and follow along as we stop to sniff the flowers...