The holiday of LOUD NOISES! is upon us.
Since I started hanging out in the dog blog park, I’ve read about many many dogs who are afraid of fireworks. Daley didn’t care a thing about them until he was 11 years old. Granted, most of his years we lived in states where fireworks are illegal but we also lived in beach towns where vacationers (and locals!) don’t care too much about rules.
You can read a past DDY post about how Daley suddenly became afraid of fireworks here. My solution for my sweet senior was to keep him out of ear shot of fireworks displays. That sounds like a simple solution but the logistics were a nightmare. From what I’ve read of other caregivers’ efforts, it seems that noise fears are never an easy issue.
Last year, we were in Portland for Mason’s first July 4th since becoming a member of our family. Local fireworks stands abound in Portland and we had no idea how he’d react to the noise so I planned to stick close to home with him during the holiday weekend.
At the time, Mason was in basic obedience training. Our instructor told the class that one way she conditions her dogs for loud noises is to make a big bowl of popcorn and every time a firework goes off she throws some on the floor so the “crack!” turns into a “score!” for her pooches.
Well, it took about two seconds for me to learn that Mason does not appreciate the bang-up good time of do-it-yourself residential fireworks displays and popcorn doesn’t do a bit of good to to distract him from the cracking, hissing and popping.
Mason wasn’t beside himself with fear but he was anxious. When he heard firecrackers, he would bark nervously. He startled easily and in general, he was revved up with an edgy energy—all of his stuffies suffered serious beatings.
I tried to tire him out with exercise and play during the day and at night I hung out at home, watched movies at higher-than-usual volume and kept him close to me.
Certain fireworks are legal in Portland and the locals really go for it. The big boomers (illegal) didn’t start cracking until late in the evening and during those stretches, I decided to give Mason a half tablet of Acepromazine, which one of his vets prescribed for air travel but we haven’t used for that purpose yet. Besides Benadryl, it was the only medication I had in the house and it did the trick to help him snooze through the noise.
But from what I’ve since read (See “Pet Travel Pt. 3: Frankie’s Drug-Free Policy” at Will My Dog Hate Me?) and heard from friends, I don’t think Acepromazine will be the way to go in the future. I also talked with Mason’s vet about how the different medications work and she confirmed that while Ace calms the body it does not ease the mind.
Mason now has a Thundershirt, which I’d read great things about from our pals in the dog blog park, and he wears it for all LOUD NOISES! events. Recently, in Portland there were some whopper thunderstorms and the Thundershirt’s calming effect on Mason was noticeable. (Also, bonus use: When I first ordered it for him, Mason had a bout with itchy skin and until I could get him into the vet, I put the Thundershirt on him and it protected his skin from his vigorous scratching.)
In anticipation of this July 4th, I had intended to see how Mason does with Xanax but really, giving Mason drugs is not something I like to do and so I didn’t. Instead, we’re going back to the basics, saying “Forget you!” to fireworks altogether and heading out of town for a few days. We’ll be visiting the Sacramento area and we’ll post about our trip soon in our On The Road With DDY travel section. Happy 4th of July, friends! Hope you have a safe and fun holiday.
*Future Old Guy (FOG): Mason’s a young guy now (about 4 years old) but someday he’ll be an old guy. Issues that dogs face when they’re young often figure into their wellness when they’re older. With that in mind, DDY will occasionally post about Mason’s health, wellness and lifestyle.