Do Your Pets Get Stressed by 4th of July Fireworks? Read These Tips From a Pet Expert
The 4th of July is right around the corner, and while the stunning flashes and loud booms of fireworks can be a thrill for us humans, they aren't always so fun for pets. In fact, they can be downright distressing.
You may have noticed that your own pet can't stand the sudden and noisy appearance of fireworks each year, but you can't exactly prevent people from setting them off to celebrate. But what can you do?
We turned to Sophie Bakalar for some answers. She's the founder of the chic pet accessory brand Fable, with a mission to help dogs and their people lead healthier, happier lives through better design, and she knows a thing or two about helping pups through this difficult time.
Sweety High: What is it about 4th of July fireworks that get pets so spooked?
Sophie Bakalar: Dogs are very sensitive to sound and have acute hearing, so sudden loud noises can be extremely jarring for them.
SH: What are the telltale signs of an anxious or stressed pet?
SB: Drastic changes in behavior—particularly chewing (furniture, toilet paper, etc) and making messes indoors—can indicate a pet is stressed or anxious.
SH: What can we do to prepare pets for this anxiety and stress ahead of the holiday? How about during, and then decompressing after?
SB: You slowly desensitize your dog to fireworks over time by pairing loud noises with treats using a technique called counter-conditioning (ideally with the help of a trainer!). But this process can take quite a while, so you might not have them fully ready by July 4th. On the day, try tiring your pet out with a very long walk, a trip to the dog park or extended playtime. That old adage "a tired dog is a good dog" has some merit! Create a comfortable, safe environment that they can retreat to (we recommend this all the time, not just on July 4th) and maybe play some white noise to counteract the explosions. And of course, if your dog starts panicking, you can definitely comfort and soothe them.
SH: What are the different areas we can focus on with our dog, such as distractions and environment, that can help with this stress?
SB: We highly recommend creating a space that's all their own, which they can use as a safe refuge when scared of fireworks (or even just agitated by guests). That's one of the reasons we created our Signature Crate, which is meant to mimic a natural den environment that keeps them enclosed and blocks out excess light and noise.
SH: Do you have any toy and product recommendations to keep them occupied and calm as the fireworks go off?
SB: Again, we do think our crate creates a great, calm space for them. But any space that they can designate their own (and ideally doesn't resemble a metal prison!) can be helpful. We also recommend a distracting puzzle toy like The Game for keeping them entertained and active, so they're not solely focused on the fireworks.
SH: Is there anything else we should know about pet stress in general?
SB: Pet stress is on the rise, especially as pets that became accustomed to constant attention during quarantine are now adjusting to their humans' transitions back to work. There's a lot you can do to preempt daily anxiety, including slowly getting your pet used to being alone again with increasing trips outside the home, longer walks so they can use excess energy and distracting puzzle games to keep them mentally and physically active. However, if you're noticing really extreme behavior changes, you should absolutely consult your vet. Hopefully, medication is a last resort, but it is also an option if they think the behavior changes are too severe.
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