The first need-to-know detail about the 4th of July holiday? Dogs go missing more often during this holiday than any other time of year. With good reason I might add! When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. In a dog’s mind, the whole world has suddenly changed. It’s as if war has broken out and the sane thing to do when the bullets start flying is to get out of dodge!
The first thing you want to do is to keep your dog safe at home. The last thing you would ever want to do is to take your dog to the fireworks.
If your dog could, she would likely thank you for looking out for her by thinking ahead. She will also appreciate you being there for her. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE I HAVE TO OFFER. If she comes to you for comfort, be a comfort to her. Yup! Forget what others have told you. FEAR IS AN EMOTION. Fear cannot be reinforced. It just IS and, either you are there for your dog or not. What you would do for a friend who exhibits fear and discomfort, you should do for your dog. What is that, exactly?
First. Here’s what NOT to do (that so many people do). Saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay” while rubbing the body — and especially ruffling the hair against the direction it lays — with fast and frantic hand movements. Doing so is not a calming act and probably not at all helpful. For the dog to be soothed and comforted, there must be congruence between what you do and what you say and what you intend to communicate and hopefully accomplish.
How to be a comfort to your dog. Think about the type of comfort given to you over the years. A silent ear listening to you talk about your troubles and allowing you to work through without interruption or judgement. Remember the quiet caring touch of a hand on your an arm or an arm around your shoulders. If your dog comes to you, allow contact if that’s what she seeks. Allow her to nestle against you and just be together. Feel free to massage her as one would give a person a neck massage or with slow, firm strokes along the body but in a head-to-tail-with-the-lay-of-the-hair direction. If your dog does not come to you for comfort, do not try to get her to. Instead, provide a safe haven a-w-a-y from the windows and in the central part of the house. Let her choose another location if the one you set up is not to her liking.
The only potentially odd thing you should do is to pull all the window shades all the way down so not to allow your dog to see the flashing lights. Then, turn on some ‘normal’ noise perhaps a bit louder than usual to tune out the fire crackers that folks let off in the neighborhood. A favorite TV show will do. NCIS will likely be playing in my house…
Other Dog Behavior Stuff To Know
If your dog hasn’t been noise sensitive in the past, it doesn’t mean that he won’t be bothered by this year’s events.
Time has a way of changing how dogs (and people) respond, especially with age. Please remember that even if your senior dog has started to go deaf, she can still feel the vibration and see the light effects of sparklers and fireworks displays even at a few miles’ distance. And, certainly if blindness has occurred recently, the noise and vibration combination of fireworks will be especially startling and stressful.
If your dog is sensitive to noise, you already KNOW that the fireworks will impact your dog.
Consider using one or more of the following to decrease the fallout your dog experiences this year:
(1) DAP (dog appeasing pheremones) collar, spray of diffuser
(2) Composure (anti-anxiety treats made by VetriScience Labs)
(3) Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap
(4) Ask your veterinarian for a sedative if you’re really concerned. It’s best however to do a trial run on the drug beforehand as it is important to know how your dog responds to the drug. Dogs occasionally experience paradoxical effects, that is, a sedative does not sedate and instead, makes the patient more aware of her surroundings.
It’s not just the fireworks that makes this holiday so challenging for pets. It’s the contrast of more activity in general and not just the day of the holiday. The extra visitors to the home and in the neighborhood is ‘different’. BBQs and loud music around every corner of the neighborhood is ‘different’. Different more often translates to stressful for dogs. You know your dog best. Don’t put him in situations you know he can’t handle.
If your dog is afraid of new people, with all the other ‘new’ factors, your dog may react in a ‘new’ (seemingly not so fearful) manner to all that is happening around him or her. Know that he may not be himself with all the change. Even if he usually is happy go lucky with other dogs, if one or more of those visitors brings their dog(s) along for the festivities, your dog may not welcome the canine guest(s).
Think ‘perfect storm’ and give your dog a break if s/he is not enjoying everything as much as you are. Your dog does not have to be (and probably should not be) in the middle of things. In fact, if you think your dog might not enjoy all that you have planned for your holiday, look into a safer, less stressful boarding or dog sitting option.
Above all, I wish you and all of your family, two and four-legged, a safe, happy and healthy Fourth of July 2013!