The fourth of July is almost upon us. While it is a time for many dogsters to celebrate the independence of our nation, for many American dogs the 4th of July is the most terrifying holiday of the year.
I’m “lucky” in that we only live about a mile away from a baseball stadium where there are frequent fireworks nearly all summer long. The fireworks are such a common element in our environment, my dogs hardly notice them. But sound phobia and sensitivity is not uncommon in dogs. Many dogs react fearfully to loud, booming noises like fireworks, gunshots, cars backfiring, and thunder. While dogs do not generalize obedience behaviors well, they do tend to generalize fear and phobia well, as this is a survival mechanism. Many dogs who are afraid of fireworks are also afraid of thunderstorms or other loud noises, and the protocols for therapy are the same for all noise phobias.
The following three internet resources may be helpful to you in understanding how best to help your dog through Independence Day and summer thunderstorms.
1. Lisa Spector of “Through a Dog’s Ear” for Dog Star Daily: 8 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm on July 4th
2. Patricia McConnell, PhD and canine behaviorist: Thunderstorm Phobia in Dogs
3. Last, but certainly not least, is a project undertaken by British behavior professional and fellow Dog Star Daily blogger Karen Wild. Karen has created what is the most thorough resource I’m aware of on addressing fireworks phobia specifically, www.dogsandfireworks.com.
Karen has written a fantastic, free e-book on the subject, and provides a downloadable .mp3 recording of fireworks sounds which can be downloaded to your iPod or laptop for use in desensitization sessions. The video at the top of this blog entry is from Karen’s Youtube page, “The Wild Paw”.
My own tips to clients dealing with fireworks phobia are as follows:
Hopefully, these tips will get your dogs through the holiday with minimal stress. The 4th of July is Mokie’s birthday, so make sure you give your dog plenty of treats to celebrate with us!