Fourth of July.
On the day after, I asked pet owners and pet professionals this question:
“Your pets and fireworks—what did you do this year that worked?”
Not everybody had a completely calm evening with their noise-phobic pets!
Here are their answers, with some suggestions that you may wish to consider before the next fireworks holiday or loud thunderstorm where you live.
Debby McMullen (Pennsylvania) We used double-dose Composure, double-doses of Aldaron Essences Very Scary Things and Aroma Dog Chill Out spray, the AC on high, the TV on high, lots of enrichment during the day, sniffing walks during the day. It worked much better last year, and this year was louder. Anxiety still with Kenzo, but not as bad as it could have been. I hate fireworks.
Ingrid Bock (New York) Big meals ahead of time, an enriched day ahead of time, white noise on all floors of the house, and then, during, tons of praise while I stuck close by them. If I hadn’t lost my wonderful border collie mix this past autumn, Sileo would have been used also. Fireworks went on for hours—a neighbor told me she heard the last ones at 4:30 a.m., and they started about 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. But they had been going off intermittently for weeks, and will continue like that if past years are an indication. Of my eight dogs, some appear to be okay with all but the biggest bursts of sound, one hates all of it (I focus on comforting him, and that helps them all), and the rest are somewhere in the range. Of my two cats, one was truly scared at the big bursts and was unsettled by all of it, and the other seemed to be using previously learned coping mechanisms (he was feral).
Marni Fowler (Florida) Catahoula, nine or ten years old. Thundershirt, Sileo about one half-hour before the fireworks started, KONG Wobbler repeatedly filled with combo of kibble, cheese, carrots and apples, blinds closed, and ’80s heavy metal blasting on the stereo (TV and other styles of music did not mask the booms as well). This is a huge improvement from years past when she was a trembling pacing drooling barking mess, peeing on the carpet multiple times an hour. Doesn’t help that we always have severe thunderstorms leading up to the fireworks, so trying to keep her under threshold is very challenging. We had just regular fireworks. Lots of loud booms. Not as many whistling types, which is good since those are really worrisome for her. We’ve tried Xanax, Melatonin, CBD oil (all with no effect), Trazodone (worked a bit but really made her stoned). The biggest issue is the randomness of them over the week. We had a few go off this morning (before 9:00 a.m.). If they’d limit the time, it would be a lot easier to manage. I’m basically a prisoner in my house for +/- three days around the 4th.
Dae Grodin (Kentucky) Current three are not bothered, but we still play the “party” game which they love. They got bones anyway. Foster pittie had Trazodone/Xanax and I tried Mutt Muffs (dog ear protection) with her. They were helpful! The boarding dogs—one is fine, the other noise-sensitive, which owners noticed last year. I didn’t see her at all last year so didn’t think to ask. I’ve had TV up, she is in a crate with a cover, and I gave her a bully stick, which helped for a bit. The bad thing is that it will be at least two to three more weeks of this, versus just on the 4th.
Michelle Gamblin (Virginia) Mine just slept through it in their crates. Had frozen KONGs and bully sticks if needed.
Ken Belisle (Washington) Music and a fan blowing in the bedroom, and she stayed in there.
Toni Duralski (California) Composure chews and Thundershirt helped some.
Sheryl Walker (Indiana) Trazodone!!!
Ellen Yoakum (Washington) CBD oil appeared to have made a difference for our kids.
Scott Stauffer (California) Comfort and PLAY.
Denise Gregg (New York) With my seven, I went out about 6:30 p.m., when just little ones were going off, and did their favorite tricks and obstacles. I believe that made the “real” ones easier, as my pack was mentally tired.
Lynn Brezina (Illinois) I drive 300 miles north every year.
Photo by Christine Flint
Lynn Cashion Kosmakos (California) We spent five hours parked in a remote regional park, in the lea of an earthen dam, and will again tonight. We weren’t alone. There was a mix of people with pets and people who battle PTSD.
Abigail Witthauer (Alabama) Worked with a Veterinary Behaviorist (Veterinary Behavior Consultants of Alabama) and got some fantastic tips and medication to ease anxiety.
Gina Lehuta Nichols (Illinois) Prepped weeks before with a sound app on Alexa. Ice cream cones from DQ (brought home, of course). Macy’s fireworks on TV, kinda loud. They all seemed pretty good. I think the ice cream helped most. Oh, yeah, melatonin, too.
Tim Beau (Oregon) Thundershirt. This year was worse than last year. We put it on Lalo last year more because it was new than for his needing to wear it. We have used it during lingering thunderstorms. He was still nervous, panting and licking his lips, but he did none of the trembling he would have done in years past.
Bob Hadley (Washington) Tried several things. Closed the house up and had the AC (window unit) on for noise, plus fans, TV extra loud, and Melatonin (1mg per 10 pounds) and treats when she popped her head up from the noise. That worked till about 10:00 p.m., then there were just too many. She went to the bedroom and hid. She calmed down much more quickly than usual—by 2:00 a.m., she had stopped shaking and panting. Much better than last year with Trazodone and calming herbs, when she panicked with the first boom and shook till dawn.
Christine Flint (Pennsylvania) Beagle puppy, six months old. She had never previously shown any fear around gunshots or thunder, but the fireworks were really close to the house and they really startled her. Not sure what kind they were. We had her get treats out of enrichment toys, including snuffle mat and Toppl. We tossed treats for her to find. We hung out in the middle of the house, farthest away from windows. Composure and CBD oil by SuperSnouts. I’m really glad that she wasn’t too scared to eat.
Leslie McGavin Clifton (Florida) Shamu, a year-old Labrador, is not bothered. Visiting boxer puppy took refuge under recliner extension and was given a Benedryl as discussed with owners. Drapes closed, TV up. Also did some treat tosses as the noises were occurring, and she was going after the food. We stayed up with her until it seemed like all the fireworks were finished. We recommended to her owners that they follow through with behavior sessions to help with this noise aversion. Not the worst I’ve ever seen, but certainly could become worse.
Dawn Elberson Goehring (Hawaii) I have one really bad and three slightly anxious. I did lots of physical exercise day of. Calming music on all day long and then more techno/modern music with more bass during fireworks (they are already used to this). Then, before dark, they got double-dose Composure by VetriScience, Licki mats, bully sticks, and KONGs. The most anxious one did a TTouch anxiety wrap on and off. I also had some chicken on hand and when one startled them, I would throw chicken. This was by far the best year, as reactions were minimal.
Jamie Robinson (Arizona) Played increasingly louder firework sounds for two weeks. Eight pups under eight months old. None of them reacted last night. I also had the help of stupid neighbors who actually started doing their fireworks a week ago and have been exploding them mildly every night. Get a thunder instrument. Never do the sounds in the same room; fireworks don’t happen that way. And you need a similar vibration. [If the thunder instrument doesn’t work,] next thing would be to find drumming circles in your area. Take your dog with you.
Michael Curran (Texas) What we recommend is setting up an interior walk-in closet with a comfortable dog bed and a chair, with high-value treats like Stella & Chewy’s. The clothes hanging in the closet help baffle sound. Set up a music player like the Amazon Echo or Google Home to play RelaxMyDog. For recurrent episodes of sound phobias, speak to your vet about what they can prescribe. Sedatives or drugs like Sileo have been shown to be effective. Avoid chemical restraints like Acepromazine. Nutriceuticals like Adaptil DAP and Composure for dogs can help, too.
Frances Dauster (Alabama) Sixteen dogs in my house last night. Last feed/potty (supervised) at 6:00 p.m. Blackout shades. Outside lights and floodlights on. All indoor lights on. Pachelbel on pretty loud. Since the day before, with increasing loudness (up to about 75%), a fireworks CD on TV on repeat. My TV is behind a “movie curtain” so I opened it up in increments for the visual. Bathroom fan on. Lavender oil in diffuser. Zero problems this year.
Yuki Comerford (Nevada) My dogs slept through it this year, but back when my dog, a pitbull/Vizsla mix, was horrified at [fireworks], I actually brought him outside and every time a firework went off, I celebrated the event. “Yaaaay, good boy!!!! Woooo!!!!” Helping him think that fireworks were a good thing. This year he slept through it, no problem.
Vivian Frieson (Washington) Since I got my pup, I worried about how the 4th would be. He did great last night! Stanley—half heeler and the dad is a husky/malamute mix—is seven months now. Since he was about three months old, I would randomly, and very loudly, play firework sounds throughout the house while he was in the middle of enrichment. Last night, fireworks were being set off 50–75 feet from him and he sat and watched. His biggest issue was not being able to run with the people setting them off then running away.
Eileen Anderson (Arkansas) I don’t currently have a fireworks-phobic dog, but am always proactive about it. Besides, even if a dog doesn’t have a clinical fear, those loud booms are unpleasant and can be startling. Before bedtime, I had a couple of shoes in the clothes dryer and ran it on air-dry (no heat) for the evening. The dishwasher was also on during part of the time, which was helpful. For the big booms, everybody got a treat. Upon going to bed, I turned on a floor fan and also played brown noise from an app, using a high-quality external speaker with good bass response. Brown noise is generally more effective than white noise at masking booms because it has more low-frequency components. Think “roar” rather than “whoosh.”
Margaret Tyler (Illinois) What I did happened a long time ago. I bought from a breeder who cared enough about her puppies and their owners to religiously play tapes for the pups with noises of all kinds, starting quietly, and gradually getting louder. Neither of my girls flinches at noises like fireworks or thunderstorms.
Your veterinarian is your best source of information on medication and treatment for noise-phobic pets. Make an appointment now to discuss the issue, before our next fireworks holiday or loud thunderstorm.