For most, July can be barbecues, good times at the beach, and vacations. But for a many dogs especially around the 4th of July, it signals the fearsome sounds of fireworks and powerful summer thunderstorms.
According to The American Humane Society of the United States, "so many pets are frightened and try to escape the sights and sounds that animal shelters around the nation report a dramatic increase in lost pets during the holiday."
“July 5 is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters, as companion animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted.
Anxious families often find themselves searching the streets and shelters looking for a treasured family member whose fear drove him to jump a high fence or break his leash or chain.
If your pet is upset by thunder, a door slamming or other loud noises, Fourth of July fireworks will be utterly terrifying.”
This happened to me years ago with my storm phobia dog. I had her confined to my bedroom where she was safe but some of the companies children didn’t listen and opened the door and off ran my dog. She was so afraid that she just ran when I pet is fearful they don’t remember the way they went to find their way home. The State Police found her the following day laying in a ditch in shock and luckily she was returned to me in good condition. Of course she was wearing her ID tags and back then the police didn’t hall her off to the dog pound. That was a great lesson for me and I don’t leave my pets alone on the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve when I know there will be fireworks for I currently have a dog with fears of fireworks. My pets are too important to me to leave them alone a few days a year when they can be traumatized. I have worked very hard with energy work, and other techniques, to reduce my one dogs trauma to risk creating a new fear.
Behavior Modification can work with fearful dogs. It isn’t an instant fix but I have had success over time with different techniques. I currently have a dog that has fears of storms and especially fireworks. She had a large firework drop down at her from a neighbor as she walked out our door and that was very traumatic for her. Some animals are more predisposed to these fears than others. Sometimes you can use a recording with sounds of something exploding and gradually play it louder and louder while engaging the dog in some play or training activity that she enjoys over a period of days to weeks. That didn’t work for my dog because there wasn’t any vibration or pressure associated with the recording. If your dog is food motivated you can couple a favorite food or treat with the increasingly louder sounds, so the dog becomes conditioned to understand that the loud noises come with tasty snacks.
Storm phobia is harder to help a dog get over — much harder — and why is not clear. But if you want to desensitize your dog to storms, be sure to introduce the dog to the sounds of storms in the same gradual, structured way that you would reintroduce her to anything else she's afraid of. That's how you will instill confidence in the face of adversity.
If you have a basement you can take your dog to the basement during a storm to help muffle the noise. Unfortunately many of us don’t have a basement, therefore, go to the quietest place in your house or the place your pet is most comfortable being at. Draw any blinds or curtains while playing white noise or calming music in the background to help drown out the sights and sounds of the storm. Don't sympathize or agonize over what your dog is going through, because that only reinforces the fear. Instead, distract your dog by playing fetch or engaging in some other game or routine that she enjoys. If you stress about their fear they will feel your stress and that doesn’t help the situation. It is very important that you stay calm and relaxed.
As the dog begins to focus on the fun, and relaxes some maybe during the second, third, or fourth storm, gradually increase exposure. Open the blinds a bit.
Sometimes a thunder jacket (available online or at most pet stores) or an anti-static cape (Storm Defender capes at stormdefender.com.) will work. Research suggests that for some dogs, storm phobia is not about the noise but about the buildup of static electricity on the dog that causes shocks similar to feeling the pressure (You'll often find a dog in the bathroom pressed behind a pipe during a storm; pipes conduct electricity away.)
I have had great success with using Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, healing energy work, sound therapy and behavior modification through PWC dog training to calm the animals. This is all part of my Pawsitive Wellness Center's Business. All techniques can be done in the comfort of your pets home or from a distance You can diffuse the oils or play the Tuning Fork Relaxation Music daily to relax the animal. This will need to be done ahead of July 4th so the dog learns to relax under normal conditions and especially so they don’t associate the essential oils or relaxation music with the fireworks or thunderstorms. Contact me if you would like more information on the essential oils I use for calming the animals with fears.
I am a Subtle Energy Animal Practitioner & Healing Touch for Animals Practitioner. I am P4EO Certified in using Essential Oils with animals.