While many communities across North America have cancelled or postponed public Canada Day or Independence Day fireworks displays because of gathering restrictions, the cancellations don’t mean that fireworks won’t be going off this year—and terrifying pets in the process. In fact, more random fireworks displays have already happened in major cities across the U.S. than in previous years, and according to NBC News, “2020 could be the best year ever” for fireworks sellers.
In other words, there could be more “kaboom!” than usual happening this year to terrify pets. To help soothe and protect pets terrified by fireworks displays, here are seven tips to share with clients today:
1. Leave Pets at Home
If you’re attending some small fireworks display, don’t leave your pet tied up outdoors or take them along. Keep your pet indoors and set up a secure, warm place where your pet can safely retreat. Yet ultimately let your pet determine the location that feels best. If your pet decides to dive for cover under the bed or in the closet, let your pet remain there undisturbed until they feel safe enough to come out.
2. Watch the Windows and Doors
For panicked pets, an open door represents an escape route from frightening fireworks. And watch the windows as well. Terrified pets have been known to dive through window screens in their bid to escape.
3. Do Not Chase Your Pet
On a normal day, your runaway pet will likely recognize you and come when called. However, in a heightened state of fear caused by fireworks, your pet may be consumed with the instinct to flee danger, and chasing your pet can give them a reason to flee faster. So be patient. Call your pet reassuringly as you walk after them. Carry some treats to help entice them back to you. Your pet is looking for safety, so be that assurance of safety, and if your pet still does not come back and disappears, contact your local Human Society to enlist their help.
4. Make Sure Your Pet Has an Updated ID Tag
While some lost pets manage to find their way home on their own, some may be found by other people (even against incredible odds), and some will wind up in shelters. To increase your odds of seeing your pet again, make sure your pet has an updated ID microchip or collar tag. For more about identifying your pet with a microchip, contact your veterinarian.
5. Avoid Excessive Coddling
When pets are in distress, our first instinct is to soothe them and reassure them that everything is okay. And this is fine to a degree. However, excessive coddling may justify your pet’s fear and thereby make it worse. Excessive coddling also does not teach your pet to be unafraid of fireworks or other stimuli. Instead, excessive coddling may condition attention-seeking behavior in your pet as a coping strategy, and this strategy can be problematic when your pet is exposed to fear-inducing stimuli in your absence.
6. Consider a Calming Cap
Designed to lessen a dog’s anxiety or aggression during a high-stress situation, a calming cap is basically a single panel of sheer fabric that fits over a dog’s eyes to reduce visual stimuli while still allowing a dog to easily navigate his surroundings. Originally created to ease the hyperactivity of dogs that became agitated while traveling by car, the calming cap has many useful applications to calm dogs in a wide variety of stressful situations, from fireworks to trips to the veterinarian.
7. Try a Thunder Jacket
Also known as anxiety wraps, thunder jackets are vest-like garments designed to calm anxious dogs by applying gentle pressure around a dog’s torso, much like the reassuring pressure of a calming hug.
Animal anxiety wraps were inspired by research into the calming effects of certain kinds of touch and pressure on humans with severe anxiety and autism. In fact, ThunderShirt (a big player in the animal anxiety wrap business) specifically calls out the work of livestock behavior expert and autism-awareness advocate Temple Grandin, who invented the “hug machine” to help calm people with autism. In the application of this methodology for pets, ThunderShirt brands its anxiety-wrap product as an effective calming solution for pets against fireworks, thunder, and separation anxiety. Yet to date, there have been few studies into the effectiveness of thunder jackets, and because of this, researchers caution pet owners that thunder jackets may not fully alleviate or prevent a dog’s terror during a stressful situation or may have no effect at all.