Furry friends and fireworks: Helping distressed canines cope

By T. Scott Boatright

Many Lincoln Parish residents love celebrating the New Year with fireworks, especially at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

But furry family members don’t always like, or even understand, what all the “flash and bang” is about, and could even become stressed or dismayed by what is happening around them this time of year.

Sharon St. Andre, Puppy Pre-School Coordinator and Trainer at Ruston’s Sexton Animal Clinic, said that one way to keep dogs calm while fireworks are going off around them outside is to use a pet tranquilizer.

“One thing to do in severe cases is go to your vet and have him prescribe something for the dog to kind of help take the edge off,” St. Andre said.

St. Andre said that creating a safe haven, preferably in a room without windows, for a dog to stay in while fireworks are being shot is probably a better option for many dogs.

“Put your dog in a quiet room that can block out a lot of outdoor noise by keeping the windows shut,” St. Andre said. “Make the room extra inviting by doing things like giving the dog treats, their favorite blanket or bed, and toys. You could even give them a brand new toy with a squeaker to help distract them from the sounds of fireworks they might find scary.

“Turning up the television or playing music to drown out the noise from the fireworks could be helpful, too.”

St. Andre added that if the dog sleeps in a kennel or crate of some kind, then that is considered a safe place they might feel more comfortable in.

But first and foremost, said St. Andre, is for dog owners to make sure they don’t accidentally cause the stress and fear animals might feel. 

Many animals pick up on our non-verbal body language. If an owner is scared and stressed out, their dog is likely to sense this right away. 

“The best thing you can do for your dog in these cases is kind of step out of their way and let them learn how to deal and cope with the stress on their own,” St. Andre said. “In lots of dogs’ cases with fireworks and the loud booms and bangs, the rumbling and all of that causes some anxiety but especially in a young dog.

“If you foster that fear and scoop them up and tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK’ and give in to that with them, it kind of locks in that mindset with them. And that behavior will just continue and grow.”

St. Andre said another important thing to consider is keeping your dog inside for the night if at all possible, even after you think the fireworks have ended.

“If it’s a fearful dog, I would not let them out even after the owner is done popping fireworks,” St. Andre said. “Because you don’t know what else might go off and cause them to run. That’s one of those nights they probably need to be inside unless they’re used to fireworks.”