Keeping Your Dog Calm on the 4th of July
So you’re a patriot. A dyed in the wool champion of mom, the flag and apple pie, and on the 4th of July, the authentic Paul Revere costume will leave no one guessing about how strongly you love the Stars and Stripes. And since patriotism runs in the family, you wouldn’t think of leaving your dog and her custom fitted red, white and blue bandanna at home for a celebration of this magnitude. But what will she think about all the sparks and explosions?
Remember that it’s normal for dogs to react to loud noises with some anxiety and fear. After all they’ve evolved to flee noise as a survival tactic. For some on the more sensitive side, a heavy thunderstorm might require touch up paint, or new screen in the storm door. For a creature that experiences the world through super tuned hearing and acute sense of smell, a fireworks display could feel like the end of the world. Considering the random explosions, clouds of sulfur, and colorful sparks, it’s no surprise that more dogs run away on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. Whether you decide to bring your dog to the show or let her sit this one out, there are several ways to keep Independence Day fun for everyone.
Conditioning for Attendance
So you’ve decided to bring your patriot with a tail to the show. The best way to avoid a meltdown when the sparks hit the sky, is some classic Pavlov style conditioning, and this will require a trip to the fireworks store long before the billboards go up in June. Set off Saturn missiles, black cats and or a roman candle or two before routine positive experience like meals, or a walk, and before you know it, she’ll be begging for another trip to Fast Eddie’s Fireworks Outlet. This acclimation can also be achieved with recorded fireworks sounds, but, again, remember to begin several weeks or even months in advance. The key with any conditioning, especially fireworks, is allowing plenty of time for results to develop. Lighting a few sparklers in the backyard on July 2nd won’t do the trick.
And conditioning or not, remember that during the show, your dog will still watch your body language and will react based on what she sees. Calm, cool behavior from the pack leader will help your dog stay relaxed during the show, and a long walk or Frisbee session beforehand will burn off excess energy and make it easier to enjoy the show.
Making Other Arrangements
The easiest way to eliminate fireworks stress on your dog is to find a quiet place where she’ll never even know there were bombs bursting in air. Ideally this would be a familiar place like a favorite doggy daycare, a friend’s house, or a kennel. If not, bring the dog over to her fireworks refuge a few days in advance so it will be less of a shock when you come back over on the 4th.
If you live right in the shadow of the Independence Day celebration, and taking your dog away from the noise isn’t possible, placing her in a kennel during the show will create a feeling of safety. Sometimes even sedation along with the crate may be necessary, and if you choose this route, remember that for medication to be effective, it must be started one or two days before the 4th and given while the dog is still in a calm state. Once the dog reaches a panicked state, medication might as well be a dud. A thunder shirt can help calm things down, but again, this must be employed while the dog is calm, before panic sets in and breathing becomes rapid. However, a thunder shirt will not be enough during the celebration of the 4th of July fireworks.