1. Leave Your Pet at Home
Don’t leave your pet tied up outdoors or take them with you if you’re attending a fireworks display. Humans may view fireworks with oohs and ahhs, but to a pet, fireworks may as well be an aerial bombardment by invading aliens. Set up a secure, safe place indoors where your pet can safely retreat, yet ultimately let your pet choose the place that feels best. If your pet chooses to dive for cover under the bed, for example, let your pet remain there undisturbed until they feel safe enough to come out.
2. Don’t Chase Your Pet
If your pet flees, don’t chase your pet. On a normal day, your pet will likely recognize you and come when called. However, in a heightened state of fear caused by fireworks, chasing your pet may only give them a reason to run away faster, so be patient. Walk after your pet as you reassuringly call them and entice them back with some treats. Your pet is looking for safety, so be that reassurance of safety. If your pet still does not come back, enlist the help of your local Humane Society.
3. Watch Your Doors and Windows
For pets panicked by Independence Day fireworks, an open door represents an escape route, as do windows. Frightened pets have been known to dive through window screens in their attempt to escape. So, exercise caution when opening exterior doors, and shut windows to both prevent escape and cut down on frightening sounds.
4. Avoid Excessive Soothing
When furry family members are distressed, our instinct is to soothe them and give reassurances that everything is fine. And soothing reassurance is fine to a degree. Yet excessive soothing can justify your pet’s fear and make it worse. Excessive soothing also doesn’t teach your pet to be unafraid of Independence Day fireworks, and may condition attention-seeking behavior in your pet when exposed to any fear-inducing stimuli.
5. Make Sure Your Pet Has an Updated ID Tag
Though some pets manage to find their way home, some are found by strangers while others 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 information about microchipping your pet, contact your veterinarian.
6. Try a Calming Cap
A calming cap is a single panel of fabric that fits over a dog’s eyes to reduce visual stimuli while still allowing a dog to easily navigate his surroundings. Designed to lessen a dog’s anxiety or aggression during high-stress situations, the calming cap was originally created to ease hyperactivity in dogs traveling by car, but now has many useful applications in stressful situations, from Independence Day fireworks to trips to the veterinarian.
7. Consider a Thunder Jacket
Also called anxiety wraps, thunder jackets are vests designed to calm anxious dogs by applying gentle pressure around a dog’s torso, much like reassuringly hugging a pet during a frightening thunderstorm. (Hence the name.)
Thunder shirts were inspired by research into the calming effects of certain types of touch and pressure on humans with anxiety and autism. The company ThunderShirt, in fact, specifically cites the work of livestock behavior expert and autism-awareness advocate Temple Grandin, inventor of the “hug machine” to calm people with autism.
ThunderShirt brands its anxiety-wrap product as an effective calming solution for pets terrified by fireworks, thunder, and separation anxiety. However, there have been few studies to date into the effectiveness of thunder jackets. Because of this, researchers caution pet owners that thunder jackets may not alleviate or prevent a dog’s fear during fireworks or other stressful situations.
8. 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.
Every New Year’s Eve, loud fireworks terrify untold numbers of pets, and animal shelters see a spike in lost pets who’ve run away to escape the noise.
To help prevent this, download our free client handout with quieter, pet-friendly alternatives so pets and their owners can have a blast on New Year’s Eve without the literal blast.