A fear of fireworks is common among dogs. In fact, more canine companions get lost during the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of year due, in part, to local firework displays and pet owners getting distracted at family gatherings, among other things. But there are ways to help your pup overcome his fear. Here are some tips from experts at the AKC GoodDog! Helpline:
1. Know what your dog loves. You’ll need to select a treat he finds desirable enough that the emotional response it elicits is stronger than his fear.
2. Observe your dog and learn his body language so that you can tell when he’s becoming stressed. This is an important one. To successfully recondition a dog’s emotional response, he needs to be in a state of mind where he can respond to you. Call your dog when he’s first showing signs of stress.
3. After the fireworks end, quickly cheer “Treats!” while you give your dog some. The goal is for the scary sound to become a predictor of something great instead of something fearful.
4. Consider getting a digital recording of fireworks. This will help you start the desensitization process before the snap, crackle, pop begins. Play the recording on a low volume while you present a high-value treat. You can gradually increase the volume as your dog starts associating the noises with yummy food.
5. Have patience. Conditioning your dog to associate fireworks with something good takes time and multiple experiences.
6. Get assistance. For minor cases, the experts at the GoodDog! Helpline are here for guidance. More extreme cases, however, may require veterinary intervention.