Well, the fireworks/firecrackers have already been going off randomly for over a week now and Chewey is spending a lot of time under the bed or shaking in a corner. He's absolutely terrified of them and I wish there was something I could do to alleviate his anxiety.
If it was a just a single night of fireworks then I'd probably look at getting some type of sedative for him, but I don't want to drug him for 2 weeks straight around the 4th. I'm not really sure what to try. One of the receptionists at the vet had suggested trying a pheromone collar to start with (supposed to last up to 30 days). The first couple days I thought it might have helped, but that was probably wishful thinking... Tonight there was a relatively loud one around 7 p.m. and Chewey peed on the floor (which he never does) and then huddled in the corner next to me shaking ;-< It breaks my heart to see it, because he hardly ever seems scared of anything, so I know it's bad...
What do other people do in this type of situation? Anything in particular that you've tried and been successful with?
Will he take food? If he will, I would sit there with tiny bits of something yummy and every time a firecracker goes off, you can pop a piece of food in his mouth. If he's toy-motivated, you can distract him with a favorite toy. Either is counter-conditioning, which is associating something they really like with something they find frightening until they come to associate the thing that scared them with the good stuff and lose their fear. It takes diligence over time.
If he's so shut down he won't eat, you may try desensitizing him when there are fireworks farther away if that is possible.
Some people have luck with a thundershirt, others don't. Seems to depend on the dog.
Mine will bark but aren't really frightened, just trying to chase away the annoying noise outside.
If you have an interior room, like a walk-in closet or laundry or something where you can shut the door and it has no outside walls, I would get him used to that room (when there are no fireworks). Have that be a place where he gets special treats or chew toys and gets comfy being alone. Then add a radio or something as suggested below.
The ideal way to desensitize is to start when the object of fear is close enough for the dog to notice, but not so close that they shut down. This is hard with fireworks because they are unpredictable. So if you can find a way to reduce the noise inside the house with the method above, you might be able to work on it that way.
Have you looked into seeing if he'll tolerate cotton in his ears? Horse people do it a lot and I don't often see it with dog people, probably because dogs paw it out. You can build up to it like you do with a muzzle (a few seconds at a time) but make sure you look into it first online or with a vet so you don't damage his ears.
One thing you might do is (after the holidays) get a DVD of fireworks and start with very low volume and build from there, while desensitizing with food like I described above. That doesn't work with thunder (because of the other factors involved in a storm, like air pressure changes and static electricity) but I've heard of it working with fireworks.
I really, really hate these long, drawn out holidays, when people explode fireworks day after day. It's totally unpredictable. When the holiday was actually on the holiday, I would drug Lilliput, because her fear was so great. The problem is you need to give the drug an hour ahead of time, which only works for predictable events. What does help is a really big rawhide bone. She will run and hide under the bed with it. Tonight she was under there for an hour, just long enough for the city display to finish. Since we are in a drought now, all neighbors have been warned of drastic penalties for setting off fireworks, and so far that has worked. All is quiet. No fires, either.
Tomorrow is the 4th. Let's hope the neighbors are just as considerate. If not, we may just have to call the police, since it's so much more serious this year.
If he likes his crate, try covering it with a sheet so it's more den like. He might feel safer there. I know it's hard but be matter of fact about it all. You will just feed his anxiety if you offer sympathy to him or act scared yourself. Rosie is also afraid of firework and thunder. I made her a snug fitting coat, like a Thundershirt, and that seems to help. At least she will go to sleep on top of the bed and not try to get under it! Some people have had luck with the Thundershirt and others have used a snug fitting toddler/baby shirt on the dog. It needs to fit snuggly around their torso/upper body. People have pinned the shirt so it is snug.
Good luck. Keep Chewy inside during the fireworks so he doesn't get scared and bolt. You don't want him running scared and getting lost! If you are having company during the fireworks, put him in a quiet room, turn on a radio for him, give him a bowl of water, and shut the door. Make sure people leave him in there and not open the door, again so he doesn't bolt and run and get lost! Be sure he has ID on in case he does get lost.
My brother's min pin is the same way. We wind up covering her under the covers, in her crate. She still whines a little bit, but its better than the usual anxiety. If we have her out, she is scared and starts to pace around the house. It can get really bad sometimes. I agree though, any sympathy might make it worse.
You have my sympathy. Growing up we had a poodle that was terrified of fireworks and she made life miserable for the whole family. In those days we didn't have AC so the windows had to stay open and it made things 10 times worse!