Picnics, fireworks, music, patriotism, and family or fear, dread, panting, pacing, self-mutilation, running the streets without family. Both of these sum up the Fourth of July. For some dogs the fireworks are just too much for them and their fear is real. I had a Chow that tried to jump through a second story window at the sound of fireworks; my neighbors at that time had a lab that tore out all the plumbing hiding from the fireworks underneath the sink while they were at the show. I also grew up with a German Shepherd who loved attending the fireworks show and was not fazed at all. Dogs are very much like us in that what scares some will not scare others. But those who are fearful are genuinely so but the good news is that there are many options available to help them with these fears. One of my specialties as a dog trainer is working with dogs with noise phobias. Each dog is an individual so some dogs that I work with only require a few sessions, others require longer treatments. Some dogs completely recover from their fear others are still nervous but are not harming themselves anymore or trembling uncontrollably at the sound. My goal as a trainer is to make your dog as comfortable as possible when they hear the noise that triggers their phobia, because the type of stress that is created by noise phobias can have long term effects on your dog’s overall health. It is not good for human or dog to be in a state of prolonged stress. I also advise in severe cases the use of sedatives until a training breakthrough can be established. However, sedatives must only be used if you are going to be with your dog. Dogs can still injure themselves on sedatives and besides who wants to be in a state of terror and alone but now unable to respond because of a sedative. If you opt for sedatives follow your veterinarian’s directions, most suggest you give them prior to the start of fireworks and then stay with your dog throughout the duration. There are also many natural products that have been very helpful to my clients such as Thundershirts, Lavender, Bach Rescue Remedy and Composure just to name a few. I know that many holistic vets also have herbal options which can be wonderful for noise phobic pets. As a dog trainer I’m primarily focusing on dogs but cats can also be phobic as well and do not respond well to sedatives, so I strongly suggest seeing a holistic vet if your cat is phobic and working with a trainer because cats can be desensitized as well. If you don’t have a phobic animal and are heading out to the fireworks show on your way home keep your eyes peeled for wandering pets. The 5th of July is the busiest day for shelters in the U.S. I have rescued many pets on the Fourth of July and fortunately gotten them reunited with their owners. I always carry slip leads and treats in my trunk. Remember these pets may be very fearful and may bite so always use caution.
So to sum it up here are some tips for keeping your pets safe this 4th of July:
- Keep your pet indoors at all times
- Microchip your pet, collars can get pulled off especially when a dog panics and gets caught on a branch, etc.
- Keep your pet away from glow jewelry. It is not toxic but can cause intestinal blockages.
- Never use fireworks around your pets.
The safest and best bet for celebrating this Fourth of July with your pets is to exclude them from holiday festivities, at least this time around. Instead, find a safe, secure spot in the home for your pets while you go out and enjoy the loud bangs, bright lights and spectator fun. Leave animal planet on the television or classical music playing. Your pets will appreciate the quiet a lot more than you’ll enjoy the noise.