With the Forth of July coming up I thought I’d pass along some advise for you and your canine companion about fireworks. Some dogs don’t seem to be too affected by fireworks and other loud noises but others react very strongly. I have one of each, my Jezzie doesn’t seem to be bothered with fireworks going off in the neighborhood but Bruti, on the other hand, gets just terrified.

So here’s some advise for you from Dr. Ilana Reisner, assistant professor of behavioral medicine, at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Dogs can respond with profound fear to loud, booming noises such as thunder or fireworks. In fact, some dogs appear to develop a worsening fear over time that eventually is characterized as a phobia. Noise-phobic dogs can respond with extreme efforts to escape the noise. What starts as mild signs of distress, such as pacing, trembling and panting, can develop into chewing and digging at points of exit, particularly if the dogs are alone at home. It is not unusual for unsuspecting owners to come home to extraordinary destruction of doorways, windows and other routes of “escape.” Dogs with severe noise phobias have even been known to chew through drywalls and jump through plate glass windows.

“Luckily, most dogs will show milder signs of anxiety at first, giving owners at least some warning of an impending phobia. There are some measures that can be taken to prevent extreme phobic reactions. First, dogs should not be taken to community fireworks or other noisy events. Any early signs of anxiety (such as “clinginess”, panting, pacing or trembling) are best ignored or distracted by play. Although it may seem tempting to reassure a frightened dog, petting and reassurances may have the opposite effect by reinforcing the dog’s frightened behavior.

“It is helpful, however, to watch the dog and see if he or she is seeking a hiding place. Noise-phobic dogs will often try to “hide” in a closet or beneath a desk; such efforts can be encouraged by offering food treats in the “safe haven,” and the dog praised for seeking shelter. Hiding can be a very effective strategy for dogs frightened by noises — and is much less destructive to the home. It also helps to keep a radio or television on as background noise which can muffle outside sounds.

“Finally, if a dog has shown signs of distress in the past, it may be helpful to discuss use of anti-anxiety medication — whether for a night of fireworks or for the entire thunderstorm season — with a veterinarian.”

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