I get that many states are done with Fireworks after the 4th of July. Because we have Pioneer day in Utah I wanted to discuss how to be proactive with your dog during the Firework season. Depending on where you live fireworks can continue onward for almost the full month of July! Unfortunately, many dogs become scared during this season and it is easy for you to lose to your dog. We also want to provide you with some information to keep your dog more calm during this season.
Here are a few firework safety tips.
1.) Keep your dog indoors. If your dog is outside and he hears fireworks he may become scared and easily jump the fence in the backyard or figure how to open the gate. Even if your dog usually stays in the yard his behavior might be drastically different during the firework season.
2.) Keep in mind that your dog’s behavior maybe different on leash walks. I recommend walking your dog in the morning or afternoon. Once evening arises at 6pm or later many people will be playing with fireworks. If I walked Seiki too late in the day during the firework season, he would dart all over the place on his leash walks. He was so stressed that he was unable to perform obedience commands.
3.) It is best to keep your dog on leash during walks unless you are certain that you are walking your dog at a time of day that no fireworks will occur. Remember if your dog becomes scared his first reaction might be to run from you. If he is scared listening to your commands will be difficult for your dog.
If your dog does become super scared around fireworks there are remedies you can use to calm your dog. I would love to say that if you perform consistent dog training that your dog will eventually calm during firework season but that is probably not true. “One reason noise phobias are so hard to treat is that the amygdala contains some specialized neurons that don’t habituate to the sound stimulus, but rather continue to fire. These particular neurons are activated only by very loud noises and will always fire when stimulated by them. Learning has nothing to do with it, which is why behavior modification and training so seldom help these dogs.” – The Big Bang! How you can hep your dog cop with thunderstorms and fireworks by Claudeen E. McAuliffe, M.Ed.
When your dog hears the scary sound there are a few neural pathways that fire in your dog’s brain. The biggest issue is the pathway that shoots from the thalamus of the brain to the amygdala. This pathway fires quickly and cannot be alternated through counter conditioning or dog training. Salt Lake City has a long firework season. For some of you it might be important to resolve this issue. Once the amygdala fires the dog kicks into survival mode and then immediately responds with fearful behavior. The best solutions will be created through remedies.
Below is a list of options. Of course if you want more detailed support please check out The Big Bang! How you can hep your dog cop with thunderstorms and fireworks by Claudeen E. McAuliffe, M.Ed. Applying these remedies from this book will worked better than applying techniques involving dog training. Salt Lake City has many clients where I have applied many or some of these remedies with success!
1.) The Thundershirt works wonders for some dogs. There is also a product called the Storm Defender which I personally have not tried but it looks similar to the Thundershirt.
2.) Bach Flowers such as Rescue Remedy, Mimulus, Aspen and Rock Rose can be supportive.
3.) Essential Oils such as Rose and Lavendar oil are great for stress reduction. Drop a few oils on a bandana and wrap the bandana around your dog’s neck.
4.) DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) is a pheromone that has been chemically reproduced. This pheromone is given off by the mother to their young. However, the same pheromone also works on adult dogs to calm them.
5.) Acupressure can work wonders. You can easily learn about acupressure on your own. A great book is The Well Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, by Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis.
6.) The Tellington TTouch Method can create endorphins in your dog’s body that can reduce stress.
8.) Deep belly breathing on the owner’s part is paramount to create more relaxation. Even if you consciously don’t feel stressed more than likely you are absorbing some stress from your dog. Breathing will allow these emotions to run through you and create more calmness for your dog.
9.) Intention setting is also extremely important. What you intend affects your results. I recommend hanging an intention statement in your home and reading it during the time of the fireworks. A great intention statement is positive and helps keep yourself calm. An example could be: I intend to create presence and connection with my dog. Subconsciously we tend to feel the same emotions as our dog. As a result, our actions are not grounded and clear but instead are reactive. We then unintentionally reinforce our dog’s fearful behavior.
The best way to create a calm dog during the firework season is to practice and use multiple remedies. If your dog shows extreme fear it is unlikely that one remedy alone will make a world of difference. Consider journaling which remedies are making a minor difference and compile the usage of multiple remedies together. As a result. your dog will show more obedience because he is calmer.
We want to hear from you in a comment below!
What have you learned about fireworks in relation to your dog? What questions do you have?
Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC, Dog Training, Salt Lake City