Quieting Fireworks Phobia With Music Therapy, Among Other Tricks
Last week I received another one of Lisa Spector’s e-mails on the subject of dog-calming music. Ms. Spector is a Juilliard-trained concert pianist, agility enthusiast and co-creator of "Through a Dog’s Ear," an impressive collection of music designed to soothe the canine brain.
(Here’s a past post of mine on this surprisingly scientific subject.)
In said e-mail, Ms. Spector directs us to her worthy blog post on the subject of Fourth of July Fireworks (which in my neighborhood go on for at least ten to fourteen days). It’s great stuff, advice I’d absolutely dole out. So I’ll offer it here for your consideration and spare myself the trouble:
"Eight Tips for providing a safe July 4th for your Canine Household:
1. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day.
2. Keep your dogs inside during fireworks, preferably with human companionship. If it's hot, air conditioning will help.
3. Provide a safe place inside for your dogs to retreat. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs often prefer small enclosed areas. (I once had a dog who climbed in the bathtub during windstorms.)
4. If possible, keep the windows and curtains closed.
5. Make sure all your dogs are wearing ID tags with a properly fitting collar. (Dogs have been known to become Houdini around the 4th of July.)
6. Leave your dog something fun to do – like a frozen Kong filled with his favorite treats.
7. Train with counter classical conditioning. Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., CAAB, has a very clear definition and tips here.
8. Sound Therapy: Play Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 1 and 2. It is most effective when you first play the music well before the fireworks start, at a time the dog is already peaceful and relaxed. He will begin to associate the music with being calm and content. Then play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime. The music doesn’t need to be loud to be effective as it has been clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Click here for free samples and downloads. Last year, I received a heart warming e-mail from a woman who told me that it was the first 4th of July that she didn’t need to drug her dog, thanks to the music of Through a Dog’s Ear. On previous years, he had jumped out of windows. She said, 'It was like Dog Ambien! Dambien!'"
OK, so apart from the pitch-iness of number eight, I really like her suggestions (especially the first one!). But for some dogs, my preference runs to having owners play the Star Wars soundtrack at a high volume all day and night and burn something in the oven early on in the day to help mask all the noises and smells, respectively. But then, I guess some gentle Mozart is a heck of a lot more pleasant for most people. And probably for most dogs, too.
I’d also add a microchip suggestion to number five. And, for what it’s worth, here’s my party line on the sedation thing for storms (which applies well to fireworks, too).
Now it’s your turn: What will you do to prepare for this holiday weekend?
Dr. Patty Khuly