Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Independence Day! What do I do when my buddy is scared of fireworks?

The Lovely Shane, Cuddles the Corgi mix, Copper the Whopper Beagle, Cody the Little Beagle and wish you a happy and safe July 4th! The picture is from a laser light and fireworks show at the State Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia. If you have never seen one of these you should. This time of the year, I think they do them weekly.

Firecrackers and certain types of fireworks that makes noise is not legal for home use in Georgia. So, I am certain that none of my Atlanta area readers ever encounter loud fireworks in your neighborhoods :) . Many years ago, I lived in a sub-division in eastern Cobb County, Georgia. All fireworks were illegal at that time. It sounded like a war zone around my house on New Year's eve and July 4th. I am certain this was from some local licensed fireworks show and not my neighbors with  contraband firecrackers and M-80s :).

At the time I lived in Cobb County, I had a very nervous Beagle named Boomer. Like most of my Beagle buddies over the years, Boomer was a rescue. He was abused as a young puppy and had many anxiety issues. He was very scared of the noise that accompanied these local fireworks shows.

There are desensitization techniques that can be utilized for dogs that are scared of fireworks or thunder. They basically involve exposing the dog to loud noises that mimic the fireworks like recordings of fireworks, etc. You do this in a very controlled way and begin to associate good things with the offensive noise. Desensitization takes a while and if you are consistent with it, it can be very effective. However, the occurrence of fireworks is so infrequent that avoidance may be a better technique.

This may sound like common sense and the obvious answer, but I always kept Boomer inside during these fireworks displays. I also tried to mask the sound by having music playing or the TV tuned to one of his favorite channels.

It is always important to remember that, to a very large extent, your little buddy takes cues from you. So, with that in mind, try not to react to the fireworks. Do not make a big deal about them or call him poor dog and pet him every time you hear a boom. Also, if he wants to hide under a table or something, or if he wants to sit next to you on the couch, do not discourage this behavior. If your buddy sees that you are not reacting, it will probably help in calming him as well.

It has been my experience over the years that my little buddies who were afraid of thunderstorms were also afraid of fireworks and gunfire. So, some of the same techniques may be effective. I make this point because with many dogs that have moderate anxiety, the Thundershirt product is very effective. It does not work with every dog but I had many customers when I worked at Petco who said the product made a huge difference in anxiety level. There are also pheromone based sprays that seem to be effective with some dogs that have moderate anxiety. As in the case of the Thundershirt, this does not seem to work with every dog.

In extreme cases of anxiety, in other words if the dog is so anxious that he is hurting himself or being very destructive, your veterinarian can advise you about potentially using anti-anxiety medication for situations that you know are anxiety provoking.

If you do not have a regular veterinarian or if you suspect your vet is an evil alien :) , I will be happy to assist you in finding one.... I hope my readers appreciate my attempt at humor and don't just find it strange :).

I think our newest pack member, little Cody, may have some issues with fireworks this year. I have noticed that he is anxious during thunder storms. He is not relaxed like in this picture. On the contrary, he follows me everywhere and loves to lean on me an sit as close to me as possible. I will let you know how he does with the fireworks (if we have any in my law-abiding neighborhood).

Seriously, If you need help with an anxious dog or if you have any dog training needs, dog related questions, etc. , please contact me at any time!

I hope that you all have a great July 4th! The Lovely Shane is helping to care for her grandfather while her parents take a little out of town trip. I plan to take care of our pack and
 do some bathroom remodeling here at the Dog Trainer Shack. There is one other special activity in which I am going to participate: There is a radio contest this weekend called 13 Colonies. Amateur Radio Operators running special stations in all 13 original colonies are making contacts. If you contact all 13
of them you get a really cool certificate! I already have a start. Last night I contacted the New Hampshire station from the shack here. I was only operating at an output power of 5 watts. For those of you who are unfamiliar with radio, I probably would have used more power to yell out the window :) .

Well... Have a great 4th! Be careful.

Till Next Time


William Moore
William Moore Canine Training

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