The Fourth of July is just a few days away and the FIFTH of July is often the busiest day of the year for animal shelters all over the country. Many dogs and cats are so afraid of fireworks that they jump fences, through windows, or slip past a guest at the door and end up miles away.
If your dog is afraid of fireworks like mine are, while there are few ways to “fix” it, there are some things you can to do to help them feel better.
The absolute most important thing is to prevent them from escaping your home or yard and make sure their ID tags and microchip information are up to date and easy to read in case they do. Most vets will scan your dog at no charge to make sure the microchip is registered and can be found with a scanner.
It’s not too late to get them microchipped! The SPCA Albrecht Center will microchip your pet at a low cost and help you get it registered. It’s also not too late to get that ID tag; go right now and look at it and make sure it’s easy to read and all of the information is current. Also, consider a reflective vest or collar just in case the worst happens.
Here are some other ways to help your nervous dog through the holiday:
Yes, they are scared and it is okay to comfort them, but if you reassure them in a nervous or anxious tone or while trying to restrain them, they will know you are scared too, and in their mind if you’re scared then their world is in trouble! Speak in a calm, conversational tone and let them know you are not scared.
Give them a safe place to hide. If your dog hides under the toilet tank or in a back bedroom, that is fine, let him hide. Don’t drag him out because you don’t want him to be scared, he’ll just be more scared. Close the blinds and drapes and turn on a radio or white noise machine (there’s an app for that! I like Lightning Bug in the Android play store) to mask the noise. Make it pretty loud but understand that the noise of the fireworks will still get through. You can try making a comfy bed in your closet and see if he’ll stay in there.
Protect them from themselves. Some dogs will get in a “blind panic” and try to flee by jumping fences and even through windows. If you must leave your dog alone make sure he is safely contained. If your dog is in an invisible fence, he is not safe in a panic! Make other arrangements.
Consider calming supplements or antianxiety medications. I live very near the Battle of Aiken and during the reenactment, my dogs endured three days of gun and cannon fire. Thankfully I had ordered a new product called Treatibles. It's available at Treatibles.com and the results were fantastic! My dogs were much more relaxed and even able to play during the noise.
Thundershirts do seem to help and you can get them at local pet stores or at the SPCA.
Make sure your dog has access to water. Stressed dogs pant more and become hot and thirsty; not having access to water will contribute to their fear.
Some general safety this time of year: don’t let your dog near the grill, no bones or fat of any kind, no chocolate and no attending fireworks displays. Watch out for hot pavement and the heat radiating up from the pavement, it shoots heat right into the places they need to keep cool. Know the symptoms of heat stroke and be prepared to get to a vet fast. Make sure you know where the closest emergency vet is, just in case.
I know it sounds like a lot of work but it's worth it to keep your pets safe. Have a fun and safe 4th of July!
Trish Wamsat joins the SPCA Albrecht Center team as Headmaster of the Phideaux University training and enrichment program. Trish hails from northern California where she started her own dog training business, Adobe Dogs and she has been training dogs professionally since 1977. She is author of the book " Choosing and Raising a Puppy (How Hard Could It Be?)"; an AKC Good Citizen Evaluator and Inventor of The Body Collar, a product that has been featured on Animal Planet as a humane alternative to choke chains, head harnesses and prong collars.