“Oooooh say can you see? By the dawn’s early liiiight…” The birthday of our beautiful country is right around the corner, and in true American fashion, that means lots of loud displays, parades, and fireworks. Fireworks and sirens means one thing in my household: anxiety.
My therapy dog, Kibeth (border collie/shepherd mix), suffers from pretty intense anxiety related to loud noises, and the 4th of July is her equivalent of a nightmare. Because dog’s ears are a little more sensitive to sound, louder noises can be a source of overwhelming terror for them. Anxiety around the 4th here in America is palpable for many pet parents, and it can be very difficult to deal with.
Some of the common signs of anxiety include:
My dog is the shaking one. She curls up in a little ball and quivers like a leaf. Some become defensive or aggressive, some bolt out of the nearest open door; anxiety in a dog can be dangerous. It is important to know your pup and prepare for the holiday!
There are endless treatments, supplements, and tips for treating anxiety in your pup, enough to fill endless blogs, so I am going to give you, dear reader, my own that I’ve used.
There are several ways to calm a dog, one of my favorites is distraction. Whether it’s with a tasty, treat-filled Kong or an interactive game, distraction is a good way to refocus your dog’s attention on something more interesting than the loud noises. Exercise is also a great distraction. Please note, if your dog is of the hyper-anxious type, anything active can be a good way to burn off that extra anxious steam. A word of caution: pups who are extremely anxious ‘shut down’ in a sense and do not listen as well. Be patient or move on to something else.
You all have probably heard of thunder shirts, the tight garment sold to soothe an anxious pet? The concept behind the vest is that your dog feels secure and safe. You can accomplish the same feat with a blanket, preferably one that you have used. Wrap it securely around your quivering pup to help them calm down. My dog does well with this intervention, especially when long, gentle pets are given down her spine and sides.
Another good treatment is providing your pet with a safe, comfortable, and quiet place that is somewhat soundproof to let them relax in. If your dog is kennel-trained, encourage them to use it during times of high anxiety. The kennel can be placed in a quiet bedroom with the windows tightly closed, then drape a heavy quilt over the kennel to further decrease the noise within. Giving your pup a safe place to retreat to is a great way to build their confidence and resilience; they know they have a safe place to go to, therefore, they will remove themselves willingly from tense or stressful situations.
SUPPLEMENTS & MEDICATIONS
If you still have an anxious pup, there are many supplements and medications on the market to sooth an anxious pup, but most result in a very sleepy, quite, doped-up dog. In our house, in times of extreme anxiety, we reach for Benadryl. Be sure to always clear any medication given to your dog with your veterinarian. Your vet can also prescribe other sedatives for your pup’s anxiety. Another of our favorite remedies is a flower essence tincture designed for dogs to soothe and calm them. For my dog, I’ve found it to be a helpful treatment and prevention. Again, be sure to clear any remedies, natural or not, with a veterinarian as cheap or knock-off brands can be dangerous to your pet.
Finally, a word about desensitization. Dogs can be effectively desensitized to just about anything, but it takes good, thorough training, and immense patience. A great place to start would be to use your methods of distraction (exercise, play, work) calmly while playing thunder sounds or fireworks on a speaker at a low level and slowing increasing the volume. This takes incredible patience with a particularly anxious dog, but the results could be life-long for your pup, and, if your pup is one to flee, desensitization to loud noises like fireworks could very well save their life.
Ultimately, for my anxious pup, we use a combination of all of the above discussed points. She receives flower essence for stress and fear in her water bowl for a few days before any stressful event (like the 4th of July), we keep her tired out with frequent walks and runs in the yard, and she always learns some new trick if possible or brushes up on her obedience skills. If she is too shut down or stressed to pay attention, I wrap her up in a blanket on the couch where she curls up in her furry ball, and we watch movies. One thing I try to never ever do is leave her alone when I know she is anxious and afraid. Your dog looks to you for assurance and comfort; it is important to display that assurance or give them a safe, secure place to be while you are gone.
Happy 4th of July from me and my furry companions to you and yours! Ajax and Kibeth are proud of be American pups this year, but they will be skipping any fireworks 😉
Have a pup that gets anxious around the 4th? What have you found that helps? Tell us in the comments!
Hailing from sunny Southern California, Brianna is a Registered Nurse, former dog foster mom, and Marine Corps spouse. She enjoys beach trips, hikes, and any other various adventures with her two rescue pups, Kibeth and Ajax, as well as writing or reading about anything canine.
Dogs give us the purest physical example of unconditional love and pure unadulterated joy in the world.