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  • Deb Bauer

Deaf Dogs and Fireworks

A white fluffy dog on a dark background looks up at fireworks bursting in the air.  Text says: Fireworks are coming.  Are you ready?

Deaf dogs can't hear fireworks right?

There seems to be a misconception that deaf dogs are not bothered by fireworks celebrations because they can’t hear the loud booms. I have found that this is not completely true.

Even if deaf dogs are not perceiving the loud booms in the same way that we do (through our sense of hearing), it’s important to know that loud noises produce strong vibrations into the environment. These vibrations travel through the air and the ground and are perceived by our dogs in other ways.

Dogs can feel vibrations through the pads of their feet coming from the ground and other surfaces. They also have sensors in their skin, fur and whiskers that respond to vibrations around them and communicate them to the brain.

These bursts of vibration come on suddenly, and (for dogs that can see) are accompanied by flashes of light. It’s impossible for your dog to know when each blast is coming so he has no time to prepare. This can increase anxiety and fear.

Dogs are also often aware of the odors left behind by the explosions themselves. Many dogs do not like the smoke left over drifting in the air after fireworks.

There are many hearing dogs who are not bothered by fireworks, just as there are deaf dogs who are not concerned. But there are also many hearing and deaf dogs who ARE concerned, and in many cases can become very scared, even causing injury to themselves trying to get away.

What can I do?

The thing is, if you haven’t already noticed how your dog responds, you won’t know until the fireworks happen, and if your dog is one of those who is frightened, it can then be too late. Your dog will already be afraid, perhaps even panicked, and it can be very difficult to help them calm down once they are scared.

All dogs, regardless of their sensory abilities, may respond differently to sudden changes in their environment, such as what happens during fireworks. You can plan in advance to set your dog up for success so they can feel safe before, during and after any festivities.

Avoiding a scary or startling experience with fireworks can prevent a lifelong fear from developing. This can be especially important for puppies as you approach their first experience with fireworks.

Preparation for fireworks celebrations are best started before the day of the event. Here are some things to consider leading up to the day:

Will you be home with your dog during the expected time of the fireworks or will your dog be home alone? Is there someone else who can come be with your dog if you’ll be away? You may be able to arrange for a friend, family member or pet sitter to stay with your dog if you won't be there.

Prepare an indoor space away from windows and outer walls if you can. Block windows from flashes of light. Bring in all of your dog’s favorite things - bed, toys, water bowl, etc. Anything and everything that will pamper your dog and provide him with the most comfort and relaxation.

Gather any supportive supplements or medications your dog may already be prescribed for anxiety. Or talk to your dog’s veterinarian now if you anticipate a problem to get something prescribed. You don't want to find out the day of the celebrations that you need medications filled.

Gather other tools that may be helpful during the fireworks event such as a Thundershirt, TTouch ace bandage wrap, rescue remedy, Adaptil spray and a bandana, etc. There are a multitude of tools that can be helpful in lowering stress.

Take a few moments to learn Tellington TTouches such as Ear TTouch, Hair Slides, and others, and how to put on a calming TTouch wrap. You can contact myself or another TTouch practitioner who can help you with this to learn some basic techniques.

The day of:

Keep your dog’s schedule as normal as possible during the day, providing exercise, playtime and other enrichment activities. Changing up his schedule can lead to him already being a bit on edge before the fireworks even begin.

Ensure that your dog will be able to be indoors during firework hours, and that they have had a chance to be outside and do their business before dark when the fireworks begin. If this is not a usual time for your dog to do his business, plan to spend some extra time to allow him plenty of opportunity, so you won't need to bring him outside during the actual fireworks displays.

Plan to spend calm, relaxing time with your dog in the space you’ve set up if he shows any signs of anxiety. If this isn’t possible, you may find someone else your dog trusts to stay with him and help comfort him if needed. The calmer and more relaxed you are during the event, the safer your dog will feel.

If your dog is already comfortable with a fan blowing, having a fan there will help to provide consistent calming vibrations circulating around the room which will lessen any noticeable vibrations from the fireworks.

Dogs that can hear may be helped by calming music playing in the safe place you’ve prepared. Or it can help to watch a non-intense movie on the TV - anything to provide other non-stressful sounds in the environment.

Wait until the fireworks are finished and you haven't heard any for a while before letting your dog outside before bedtime. Be aware that scared dogs often bolt and run trying to find cover. I take mine out on secure harnesses and leashes even in our fenced yard, just as an extra safety precaution. So many dogs are scared and lost after being scared by fireworks.

With some advance thought and preparation, you can help your dog to feel safe and secure during fireworks celebrations. This is important, and your dog will thank you for it!

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