Updated: Nov 28, 2020
More dogs go missing during the 4th of July holiday than any other time of year. Speaking from experience, I still remember the holiday we spent when I was a child at my grandmother's in NJ. Fireworks were going off and Daisy, our collie, jumped the fence and took off down the road. She was never found or returned to us, despite our efforts of getting the word out around the neighborhood.
Summer can be a difficult time for dogs, cats, horses, and other animals who have noise sensitivities. For the purpose of this blog, we will talk mostly about dogs. Lawn mowers, loud music, kids playing, and of course the upcoming 4th of July fireworks can all push a nervous dog to the edge. Since the coronavirus has been a factor and the weather has gotten nicer, all across the United States we have seen an increase in the use of backyard fireworks.
Things You Can Do: You can try just having your dog get used to household noises, or things around the neighborhood while on a walk. Use caution on a walk, however. If your dog is not well trained on a leash, this may not be the best choice. You can reward them with a small treat as they respond in a calm manner. Once your dog understands this can be like a game, begin to reward for calm behavior in response to sounds that typically startle him or provoke a reaction, like the neighbor starting up the lawn mower.
Go slowly. To help your dog stay relaxed around loud or scary noises, introduce them at a gradual pace. The vacuum cleaner is one you could practice with, if your dog or cat is afraid of that noise and activity. My cat often runs under the bed when I start to vacuum, but I don't stress about it. I just tell her she is safe and it won't hurt her. My cat came from a shelter situation and is frightened of many things, so we heal at her pace. Vacuum cleaners seem to be a common agitator with dogs, and cats too, so be patient with your pet.
Try drowning out scary noises with calming sounds or music. A white noise device like they use at the doctor's office, a fan or fountain can provide background noise. You can play soothing music, such as classical music or music formulated to calm pets. I play reiki music when I meditate and my cat always comes and sits by me during that time, so I know it relaxes her too. Some animals are comforted by petting, being talked to or being held, while others fare better if directed to focus on a task. Do what works best for yours.
Create a safe space for your dog. Choose one area, somewhere that your pet is familiar with and willingly enters. If you use crate training, use that. Make the space cozy by placing blankets and favorite things inside to provide a hiding space for the dog or cat. There are products with pheromones on the market to help with anxiety. There is also Rescue Remedy available for pets, which can be added to their water. There's Rescue Remedy on store shelves for humans too, so make sure you get the one for pets! You may also want to consider a compression garment like the Thunder Shirt, which can be calming for some dogs. I have no experience using those myself, but I've heard mixed reviews of the thunder shirts, so it may or may not work for your dog.
For severe cases of noise fears, talk to your veterinarian. They may recommend medications that you can give your dog before fireworks, thunderstorms and other noisy situations to help reduce its anxiety. You can ask your vet to check your pets for any underlying health issues that would cause them to be sensitive to noises. And of course, I am available too, for a communication session with your pet to try and find the emotional reason why they get so stressed out.
I really feel the most important thing you can do for your pets is to act calm and relaxed yourself. They pick up on your energy the most, and if they see you are okay, then chances are they will be calmer too. Talk softly to them, pet them, anything you can think of...and don't over-react if your pet acts out from fear. Sometimes they just can't help it and the best you can do is minimize their reaction. And remember, that's okay too.
Kind of a long post for this one, and if you made it to the end, I thank you!