It’s that time of year again…Time when some dogs get so frightened by the boom and crackle of fireworks that they shake and hide and go to the bathroom in unfortunate places. (And the bathroom biz is often diarrhea because of nerves, and this is never fun for anyone.) Some dogs even bolt, and end up in shelters – or worse.
Meanwhile others – like my unflappable Jake – don’t seem to notice a thing, and act like they’re on Valium despite the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air. Tolerance for gunfire may be deep in their genetic code. But one of the most chilled fellas I’ve ever seen on July 4 was a 2-pound Yorkie named Chuck. Chuck went to the city’s main fireworks display every year in his person’s sherpa bag, and slept through most of it – undrugged.
I’ve had both kinds of dogs. Joe, the Airedale terrier we had before Jake the Mellow Yellow Lab, would try to crawl under the bed, in my lap, anywhere but here. Since we live two blocks from a San Francisco beach where people love to set off fireworks beyond just July 4, the jitters would start days early and last days after July 4. It was pretty much hell week for Joe. I tried everything, but in the end, the best solution was going out of town to some remote rural area during the worst of it.
But even people with dogs like Jake have to be a little more aware of dangers during this holiday than most other times of the year. I’ve compiled some tips from three great sources – SEEACA, Humane Society Naples, and Angels in Fur Dog Rescue – that will help your dog get through the Independence Day festivities unscathed. Use them, and have a blast this weekend. (Or better yet for dog people, have a subdued, relaxing time.)
Beware of fireworks. Fireworks are no blast for some pets, with many dogs becoming easily frightened by their deafening roar. The best option is to leave your dog indoors (not leashed in the yard) during the holiday weekend in a safe, secure, escape-proof room of the house with comfy bed, food and water. Also consider leaving a TV or radio on to drown out the sound of the fireworks and to provide familiar noises while youre out.
Give them a den. Provide anxiety-prone pets give a crate to hide in, if they’re already crate trained. Cover this den with a towel for added security.
Be a comfort. Speak calmly to your dog and offer soft massage. TLC goes a long way in easing anxiety. Some dogs also get less anxious when they can have treats, but don’t overdo it.
Confirm your pets collar and I.D. information. Dogs can become easily frightened by loud celebrations on the 4th of July. Make sure yours is wearing a properly fitted collar with correct identification and tags just in case he or she becomes scared and runs away from home. Micro-chipping also is a great precaution to make it easier for your pooch to be returned home safely and promptly.
Be careful with 4th of July decorations. Remember that your pet may easily mistake your red, white and blue decorations and glow sticks as chew toys. Make sure to pet-proof your home and keep fun decorations out of paws reach.
Think about a vet visit. If you know that your dog is seriously distressed by loud noises like thunder, consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks displays.
Try an Anxiety Wrap or a Thundershirt . Used by leading behavior experts across the country, these Velcro-wrap shirts comfort pets. They’re akin to the time-tested trick of swaddling an infant.
Don’t leave your dog in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a car, your dog can suffer serious health effects-even death-in a few short minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but they do provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.
Watch the booze. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets; never leave your beverage unattended. If alcohol is ingested, your pet could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed, and could go into a coma or worse.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration is the #1 concern and danger during those long summer heat waves. Make sure you have a generous amount of fresh water on hand to quench your dogs thirst.
Update: For more tips, see the comments below. Our readers share their own personal favorites, including sound exposure, which takes time and can’t be started this weekend. And Lisa Spector offers a terrific and calming series of CDs that can go a long way toward helping relax jittery dogs. I positively fall asleep when listening, and Jake — well, he’s almost always asleep, so it’s hard to tell. You can listen to samples of the calming music on the Through a Dog’s Ear website. If your dog likes it, you can download the CD.