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Fourth of July Fireworks Fright

July 4, 2009

On the Fourth of July, most people look forward to watching the night skies light up with fireworks. But for some dogs, the celebratory pops, booms, and bangs are down-right scary. This common noise phobia turns some dogs into chewing, defecating, trembling messes.

Why some dogs freak out every time they hear the slightest boom while others couldn't care less isn't known, says Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, a veterinary animal behaviorist at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and author of The Well-Adjusted Dog (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).

Depending on your dog's sensitivity, keeping her calm and relaxed during the year's noisiest holiday will take some preparation. "The first golden rule for any fearful condition in a dog is to prevent exposure because with all fears, if they are continually exposed to it, even on an intermittent basis, the fear will get worse," Dodman says.

Keep your dog inside on the day of the festivities. In homes with basements, which naturally block sound, Dodman suggests turning the space into a comfortable nighttime sanctuary with a soft bed, food and water. Visit your pet frequently before going to bed, keeping your mood upbeat.

Other tactics to try:

  • Buy earmuffs specifically made for dogs.
  • Play a CD of soothing harp music, or nature sounds.
  • Stay the night with dog-loving friends or family who live in fireworks-free neighborhoods.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication and desensitizing techniques to help your pet overcome his fear.
Take a few proactive steps, and the holiday - known for it's rocket's red glare and bombs bursting in air - won't cause your dog to much distress.
Happy Birthday, America!!!

* The preceding is courtesy of Maryann Mott, writer for DogFancy magazine, July, 2009.

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