Helping dogs cope with fireworks and thunder

Fourth of July fireworks and seasonal thunder can cause some dogs high distress, although I have had dogs that would sleep right through the biggest booms and not stir at all. I also have had pooches that would wake up on a loud clap, look around with a puzzled expression, then go right back to sleep. Many pets, though, are terrified. Here’s some advice on how to cope if your dog is a scaredy cat.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, do not console or offer comfort to an anxious pet. Dogs never accept that a situation they feel is bad is actually harmless. So if you go over to the dog and reassure it, then the dog thinks you are upset by the noise as well and thinks it really should be afraid. Just ignore the dog so it sees you are not worried.

Some dogs will respond well to anti-anxiety medications, so you might want to consult your vet about it in advance.

There is a product called a Thundershirt, a vest that wraps around the dog and puts pressure on its chest. The working theory is that when pressure is applied to the chest, sort of like a giant hug, the anxiety will abate. I actually have seen this work for many dogs.

Playing a recording in the house of thunderstorms and fireworks for hours on end may desensitize a dog to the noise. I have seen this work in some of my dogs, but there are other factors that go on during these events that dogs are aware of, such as barometric pressure. I have seen dogs that would sleep during the loudest playing of the recording. However, when the real thing happened, they would still wake up and feel anxious. It’s worth a try, though.