The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. My family of ten 2-legged members and eight 4-legged members pack into my parent's cozy little lake house for a day of grilling, canoeing, swimming, and water skiing. And nothing beats the big event in the evening, when my husband, brother, and brother-in-law put on their annual I-don't-even-want-to-know-how-much-money-you-spent fireworks show! Shooting right off the dock and over the lake, every 4th of July we enjoy a remarkable display.
And while each one of us has a blast the entire day, not every family member is happy about the fireworks show. Especially my dog Elsa. Not a fan of thunderstorms either, she becomes one unhappy pup as soon as the sparklers are lit, and I spend much of the evening doing everything I can to keep her comfortable and happy.
This isn't uncommon. While we oooo and ahhh over the big bangs and bright flashes created by fireworks, many dogs will hide, run, or escape in fear. Shelters and veterinarians report an increase in dogs after the holiday and owners will have found that their dog has broken through fences, screens, and even windows at the sound of a firework.
There are a couple of methods that you can use to help teach your dog not to fear fireworks, but they require a lot of patience and time. So with the holiday approaching quickly, I've listed a couple of quick tips to help keep you dog safe and happy during the 4th of July celebrations:
- Make sure your dog is wearing a properly fitted collar with an up to date license and rabies tag. Talk to your vet about having your dog micro-chipped if he hasn't already. Or simply run down to your local pet store and get a tag made with your dog's name and your phone number on it so that if he gets lost, someone can contact you quickly when he's found.
- During a fireworks show, keep your dog in a safe, secure, familiar place such as a crate or a bedroom. Close all windows and doors to lessen the sound and to ensure that there are no possible ways for him to escape.
- Play music, a TV, run the air conditioner, or turn on a fan on to muffle out the sound of the fireworks.
- Try using a calming treatment such as Comfort Zone. Comfort Zone plugs into any outlet and releases the same pheromones that a mother dog releases to calm her puppies, and may help your dog relax. There are also a number of all-natural calming sprays and supplements which you can purchase at Ciao! Bow Wow in North Andover for your pup.
- Buy your dog a ThunderShirt. A ThunderShirt provides gentle, constant pressure on your dog, providing a calming effect. I have one ready for Elsa to wear at the first sign of a thunderstorm or in preparation for fireworks and have found it to decrease her anxiety a bit. You can purchase one at GroomTown Pet Boutique & Spa in North Andover.
- Give your dog an article of clothing or blanket that has your scent on it. The smell of you can be soothing and comforting to him. It's one of Elsa's favorite comforts when she gets scared, she’ll cuddle with any article of clothing she can find as soon as a thunderstorm begins.
- Don't leave your dog outside if you know there may be fireworks. Even if you have a fenced in yard, tether, or invisible fence, if he gets scared he may try to escape and can injure himself.
- Stay calm and relaxed around your nervous dog. Your dog reacts to your mental state, so try not to get worried about him, but instead stay upbeat and positive. If he needs comfort, give it to him, this is a time when you can give your pup as much love as he wants.
- Distract your dog with a game of fetch or ask him to do some tricks to keep him busy and stimulated while you can hear fireworks. Or try giving him a treat-stuffed toy to enjoy and work at. Use high value treats like chicken or turkey to keep him interested; plain old kibble might not be enough to distract him when he’s anxious.
- If your dog's anxiety tends to be severe over the 4th of July, call you vet and discuss possible medications that will help calm him.
- And lastly, as wonderful as it is to spend family time with your dog, avoid bringing him to a firework show. Neither of you will enjoy the show if he gets scared and it's not worth the risk of him trying to run away!
If your dog has any fear or phobia such as that of fireworks or thunderstorms, feel free to contact Kimberly Palermo at BlueDog at 978.208.7933, visit www.BlueDogPetCareMA.com, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BlueDogPetCare.