Calming Firework Anxiety This July 4th
Originally Published on Southern Maryland Parents
Fireworks are loud and often go off unexpectedly especially in the weeks surrounding July 4th. To children and pets (and maybe even adults), fireworks can bring anxiety and fear because of their booming sound and unannounced explosions. There are a few ways to help ease the anxiety that often spurs from these summer celebrations.
You should never assume that because your child is used to loud noises, that he or she will be comfortable with fireworks. On the same note, you should at least let them experience one firework and see how they react before concluding that they will be afraid.
If you have learned from experience that your child is afraid of fireworks, taking precautions to prevent their fear will help you in the long run. You don’t want to expose them to it, and then have to deal with the repercussions (like crying, screaming and fear of fireworks for the rest of their life).
The most obvious way to prevent firework anxiety is to arrange to have your young child in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays — stay home and watch the fireworks on tv where they aren’t so loud and scary. If you hear them going off outside at a neighbor’s house or a nearby celebration, help them make the connection between what they are seeing on tv and what the sound is outside.
If you intend on going to see a firework show, consider bringing earplugs or noise canceling ear muffs and a security blanket or stuffed animal that your child can hold onto. Encourage them to wear the earplugs or ear muffs at the beginning of the show and until they become comfortable enough to take them off.
Showing children a video of fireworks beforehand so they know what to expect is also a good idea. This will help you child understand what they are about to see and hopefully get them excited! Also, hearing older brothers, sisters and cousins talk about their experiences watching fireworks can pep up the younger ones who may be a little wary.
More dogs run away and become lost on the 4th of July than any other day. Most humane societies report seeing a dramatic increase in strays around this time.
It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises. The sounds trigger their nervous systems, and they can become anxious or afraid. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct.
Remember, to your dog, the experience of fireworks is different than other natural loud noises, like thunder. Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes, and burning smells. Dogs experience the world through their senses — nose, eyes, ears. The typical Fourth of July celebration can be overwhelming to them.
Once again, the simplest way to avoid doggie anxiety is to arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays — a friend’s or relative’s home or a doggie day care with which your dog is familiar.
If you cannot take your dog to a place away from fireworks, then have a travel kennel at home for him or her to feel safe in. Dogs usually prefer to hide in tight quarters like bathtubs or under the bed, so a travel kennel would be perfect. If you’re not going to be home, have a friend or sitter there to keep your dog company and take her out to potty every few hours. Leave your dog something fun to do – like a frozen Kong filled with his favorite treats. Also, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day.
DO NOT bring your dog with you to firework presentations–this is asking for disaster as your dog will likely try to get loose and can end up hurting themselves or someone else.
Having negative experiences with loud sounds can have a life-lasting effect on your dog. They can become skittish or even aggressive at any loud noise once they have determined that they feel unsafe when hearing these sounds. If you feel that sedation is your only option, visit the vet’s office and get a prescribed medication to calm your dog–please do not give them human prescriptions!
To find out where to see fireworks this year in southern Maryland, check out the graphic below!