Sound sensitivity makes the Fourth hard on pups, others

Cheri Spaulding of Rock Nest Training & Pet Care LLC

It’s the Fourth of July! It’s the time of year we celebrate our country and show our patriotism … but it’s the time of year our dogs think the world is ending.  

It’s not just dogs. People are often sound sensitive too. My childhood memories of July 4 are of my family going to watch the town’s fireworks display. Everyone would park in a field, get out blankets, chairs and picnic baskets to watch as the sky lit up with vibrant colors. But at the first explosion in the sky, I was wailing and trying to get back in the car to climb under the seat!

I know how dogs feel. The sudden loud noise was terrifying, and then with each flash and bang my nerves were jangled that much more. I overcame this as I got older because it wasn’t cool to scream and cry in front of my friends and I didn’t fit under the car’s seats anymore. My experience gave me empathy for our furry friends.

Even at home, in our own kitchens and living rooms, many of our pets are sure to respond to the frightening booms and bursts prevalent in the neighborhood. My dog Geo’s canine friend, Dottie, is terrified and has to be tranquilized early in the day before the fireworks start. I have a friend whose dog would hide under the bed at the boom of guns or fireworks. Another friend’s dog dove for cover into his “bomb shelter,” the crate. Susan Bennett, a client, friend, and local realtor said of her dog, “Izzy gets upset the moment she hears a firework and stays that way for a couple days. She won’t eat, she hides in the closet trembling.”  

I’m worried for dogs like Dottie and Izzy because revelers may start firing off the fireworks the weekend before the Fourth and continue a few days after it. That is a long time for terrified dogs, especially for those who have to be tranquilized.

The shelters are overloaded during holidays like the Fourth of July because hysterical dogs break through windows and yard gates in an attempt to get away from the noise. And you, the owner, will have to post bail for your dog when the shelter is open. Plus you might have to pay a few days of boarding.  To avoid this, a little knowledge is a lot of power.

Dogs can’t be calmed easily when in a state of fear. Dogs in fear will pant heavily, drool, have sweaty paws, be destructive to get out of doors, and possibly aggressive. So what do you do for your frightened pup? Plan ahead a little. In Covid-19 times, traveling with your dog to a quiet place may not be possible. Consult with your Veterinarian and discuss appropriate tranquilizers and options; play classical music or a white noise machine to drown out the cacophony outside. Consider wrapping your dog in a “thunder shirt.”  Allow your dog to hide under the bed or in a closet as long as it is safe for them. Have a crate set up and available if your dog is crate trained.  Please be careful not to force anything new last minute, i.e. crating, onto your dog. That will only cause more anxiety and poison the crate or thunder shirt for your dog.

If you recently acquired a new dog or puppy who shows noise sensitivity, use as many of the above tactics as possible. Throughout the next year, you can also employ a slow systematic desensitization process by using thunder and loud noise app. Your dog will habituate to the noises.

Even though I have gotten over my sound sensitivity through many years of exposure, many people have not. Fireworks can trigger anxiety attacks, and for some veterans of war even reliving combat memories.  

If you don’t consider the Fourth of July complete without fireworks, celebrate with sparklers and fun decorations but forgo having noisy fireworks at home. Your neighbors and those who have dogs will thank you. 



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