Today I’m going to take a break from my usual vintage living ramblings to touch on a subject near and dear to my heart. Relax, nothing political. Today I am going to share how you can make this Independence Day, or any fireworks celebration, a little easier on your beloved furbabies. Have I mentioned I am a, now retired, Applied Animal Behaviorist? Throughout my near 20 year career one thing I always tried to impress upon my clients was to be prepared. If you live in areas prone to natural disasters, have a plan and a supply box for your pets. Firework celebrations are no different. With some simple preparations, you and your pet can have a relatively stress-free 4th of July. But first, some all important statistics.
- More dogs are lost on the 4th of July than any other day of the year.
- Shelters report up to a 30% increase in stray animal intake on July 5th.
- Because of the way sounds travel, and the amount of fireworks going off in different neighborhoods, dogs running from noise can easily become lost and disoriented, finding themselves miles and miles from home.
- Many lost dogs don’t make it back home because they are picked up miles away and sent to shelters in different towns from where they live. Their families simply don’t think to check shelters in the entire surrounding area.
- Veterinarians see dogs with a wide variety of injuries during this holiday: lacerations from jumping through windows, torn paw pads from running, dehydration, broken teeth, lacerated lips from frantic chewing to escape.
**This is not a sponsored post. The products I link to are products I have used and referred to my clients over the years, and Petco is just where I happen to shop (they also don’t breed discriminate like some places *cough*petsmart*cough*.
So how can you protect your precious pooch this Independence Day? Simple, preparation.
Ugh! I know, I know. You want to got to a BBQ, or pool party, or stadium fireworks show. But if after all that frivolity, you come home to find your home ripped up, your dog seriously injured or even missing, would you still think going out was worth it? Get creative and find ways to celebrate at home. Your dog will certainly appreciate it.
Boarding and Daycare
If you really must go out, have your dog board with a reputable boarding facility. Most facilities fill up around holidays, so book in advance. Also make sure your pet is current on their vaccinations. Inquire as to what vaccinations the facility requires their guest pooches to have, and plan accordingly.
A dog sitter is another option if you aren’t comfortable with sending your dog away or if the boarding facilities are full. Just be sure they are well versed in caring for frightened dogs. And with any animal care giver, ask for references and a tour of where your dog will be staying.
Make sure your dog is wearing identification tags with your current contact information as well as an alternate contact. Many people won’t stop to help a dog without tags. They assume the dog may be feral or don’t want to take on the responsibility of a dog with no contact information or owner.
Having your dog microchipped is also a good idea, but again, be sure to register their chip and keep that information updated. Microchips are not only identification, but can also serve as proof of ownership if the need arises. Collars and tags can sometimes be lost or removed, but microchips are forever.
*having “needs medication” or “special needs” printed on your dog’s tags is a great way to discourage would-be dog thieves or over zealous good samaritans from keeping your lost dog. A dog that “needs medication” or is “special needs” certainly isn’t free, and has a family that loves and cares for them. A little incentive to return Fido rather than keeping him.
There are a variety of prescriptions and over the counter supplements you can give your dog to take the edge off. It is imperative you follow the directions, and the advice of your veterinarian before giving your dog anything. For some animals, an exam and blood panel may be required before your veterinarian will prescribe any medications. I personally give my dogs a natural supplement called Quiet Moments. I find it works well for dogs with mild to moderate noise phobias.
*Remember to never leave a sedated animal alone for any length of time.
Give your dog a nice safe space to hide during the fireworks. Bathrooms and walk-in closets work nicely as they blot out a lot of noise and are generally dark and cool. Make sure your dog has a nice soft bed with blankets to fluff or hide under, plenty of water, and something to focus on like a great chew, treat dispenser, or stuffed Kong toy. Add a little classical music to help soothe their nerves. A study done by the Scottish SPCA showed that playing classical music had a short-term calming effect on kenneled dogs. I find Mozart to be particularly light and soothing.
Secure Yard and Home
Go around your yard and home to make sure doors are closed, gates are locked and there are no areas where your dog can escape. Do not let your dog outside unattended. Likewise, if you’re hosting guests, kindly remind them to not let the dog out. A frightened dog will take any opportunity to escape. It only takes a second for your dog to bolt out of an open door.
Buckle Up for Safety
The Umbilical Method is one of my favorite dog training stratagies. Simply attach a 6′ leash to your dog and to your belt with a carabiner which can be purchased just about anywhere. Wherever you go, so does your dog and vice versa.
Don’t Bring Your Dog
If you’re tempted to bring your dog with you to the festivities, reconsider. Dogs have heightened senses of sight, sound, and smell. Fireworks are a blinding deafening sensory overload that your best friend will not enjoy.
You may be tempted to coddle and fret over your frightened pooch, but do your best not to. Coddling is a reinforcing behavior that may make the problem worse. Think of it as telling your dog “Good boy/girl! Yes, be afraid. Good dog.” Not terribly effective. Instead, act natural. Show your fur baby there is nothing to fear. Talk to you dog in soft soothing tones without reinforcing their fears.
Don’t Overestimate Your Dog’s Cool
I was giving a community lecture on this very topic a few years ago when an audience member came up to me to assure me that nothing I said applied to his dog who was “super chill and cool about everything”. I ran into him a few weeks later at a shelter I volunteered for. He was looking for his lost dog who ran away during the fireworks.
Don’t just assume that your dog won’t develop a phobia to fireworks. Dogs learn by association, and we cannot control the associations they make or when they make them. Your dog may just surprise you one year, with tragic results.
And with that, I wish you a very happy Independence Day! We will return with our regularly scheduled vintage shenanigans when next we meet.