Every year countless pets go missing overnight as the United States celebrates the anniversary of its Declaration of Independence from Britain. This year will not be an exception. But why do dogs go missing that night? And what can we do to make sure our dogs stay safe at home?
It was a beautiful Thursday morning when my final doggie guest arrived for their overnight stay; this made the total dog count 8. My mission was to ensure every guest was comfortable and stayed calm through the night's coming festivities. Now, not all dogs are afraid of fireworks or other loud sounds. It is possible to train or desensitize your pets to these sounds so that they are not easily spooked. I had no way of knowing if any of these dogs are ready for the loud bangs and whistles instore for that night. Luckily I was ready.
Before you start, one must understand how dogs communicate, particularly the signs of stress. Dogs communicate primarily through the use of their body language. That means you will look at every part of your dog, not just ears or tail.
Does your dog look calm?
-entire body relaxed
-open mouth, with tongue, often hanging out
-the tail may be up and waging with slow big swinging motions, but can also remain neutral and still.
Does your dog look anxious?
-eyes open wide showing whites of eyes
-head tilted away from you
-whining/trying to hide
Now, understand this is not a comprehensive list of all the different body signals a dog may give and how to interpret them. But when you see and understand what your pup is trying to tell you, you will be able to act accordingly. Great! We are now all experts at understanding our dogs a little better.
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Knowing what I needed to prepare for, I wasted no time getting to work. As the dogs came in, I placed a bandana around their neck, or if I had an appropriate fitting ThunderShirt, I put one of those on them instead. Thundershirts are a great tool for calming dogs, but they are often misused, and pet parents get frustrated for they see no results. The best use of the ThunderShirt is to put that garment on your dog BEFORE the stressor or overstimulating event occurs. For example, the loud rolling sound of thunder will terrify many dogs who experience it. However, dogs can sense the change in barometric pressure that happens before a thunderstorm occurs. They learn Barometric Change = Scary Sound. From years of experience and the study of weather patterns, we can predict when storms will happen almost weeks in advance. With this superpower, we can place that ThunderShirt onto our dogs before the barometric pressure drops. The ThunderShirt will help our pups by wrapping up their torso and applying a gentle yet constant calming pressure like when you swaddle a baby. The addition of the scent patch allows for the application of a pheromone or other aromatic calming aid to be used as well. For our purposes for the coming holiday, Storm equals Fireworks.
After everyone has their appropriate celebratory attire, I gave everyone a treat, another calming aid, like Chillax. (Looking for something a little stronger? Try our Chillax with CBD) I LOVE Chillax. Not only is it an all-natural supplement with active herbal ingredients, but it works well! The calming effects can start as quickly as 30 minutes and can last up to 12 hours. Ready for Phase 2?
Everyone settled in their little garments and had their breakfast; it was time for play! Exercise is a great stress reliever and promotes the productions of endorphins. After roughly an hour of supervised and facilitated play, it was time for a break. As expected, all the doggos found a comfy spot in the living room and took a nap. All of this had taken place before about 11:30 am. Since everyone is taking a nap, it was time to start phase 3. (For some ideas for enrichment games and exercises, follow me on Instagram and TikTok @PetTrainerRudy)
Remember the desensitization thing I mentioned earlier? Now is when I start that part of the prep. Search for a youtube video that has a clear firework soundtrack. And if you can find a loop that lasts more than 12 hours, you found yourself your next tool! The purpose is to play that video of fireworks going off, starting with a low, subtle volume and slowly increase the volume over time throughout the day. The goal is to desensitize the dogs to the sounds of the fireworks. By the time the real fireworks start outside, the dogs won't pay any attention to those loud bangs and ignore them. Using exercise, playtime, treats, praise, positive attention, and other positive reinforcement will help the dog learn those "scary" sounds are not so scary.
The final touch as an extra measure is the use of Only Natural Pet's Just Relax Calming Spray. The ideal use of this all-natural spray calming aid is to spritz a small amount onto the ThunderShirt patch or the bandanas about every 4 hours. We also like to Young Living Animal Scents - T-Away. Ask us how you can get a bottle!
Finally, from here on out until the end of the night, its all maintenance. Continue to monitor your dog's body language, look for signs of stress, and try to accommodate your dog by removing him from the stressor. Often in the case of fireworks, its keeping him in a safe and comfortable environment with some music, movie, or television on playing to drown out the loud noises. Sprits a bit more calming spray on the bandana or ThunderShirt, and it does not hurt to stay in and comfort your pup. After all, you cannot reinforce fear. Before you know it, it will be 8 am the next morning, the smoke has cleared, and your pups well-rested, relaxed, and happy to start a new day!
I hope you found this post informative and helpful. I've been training my dogs for over 15 years and professional training dogs for four years. As a certified professional dog trainer, my goal is to educate pet parents, foster, and grow the relationship and understanding between pets and their humans. Any questions can be directed to Buddy Sweets via Email at Stay@BuddySweets.com.
Thank you for reading!
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