Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence for people...but not so much for pets

Holidays - especially ones with "bombs bursting in air" can be stressful for pets. Admittedly, I am not a fan of the Fourth of July myself. Unpredictable, loud fireworks as well as the smells they emit afterward are not really my idea of a good time. Fear of fireworks is a very common phobia for Fido. Given that a dog has super hearing (a dog can locate the source of a sound in 1/600 of a second and can hear sounds four times farther away than a human can) just  imagine how loud our Fourth of July fireworks can sound to our furry friends!

Conversely, dogs can react strangely to fireworks in ways that we might not have originally predicted. Instead of anxiety-provoking, fireworks can seem like something they have to hunt or chase. I once saw a friend's beagle literally chase a bottle rocket as if it were an animal and bite the fiery tip!

It's important to keep pets safe and comfortable during this super loud holiday. Here are some tips for helping your doggie beat the Fourth of July jitters.

  • Never take pets to firework celebrations. What might look like fun festivals to you with hundreds of people and M-80s probably looks very different to your dog!
  • Keeping your dog or cat inside during the height of firework celebrations can help ease her tension. Even if they're used to being outside during the evening, have the safety of a familiar place can do wonders to help her anxiety. 
  • Some pets - especially dogs - view their crate or dog bed as a safe "den" similar to their wild cousins, the wolf and coyote. Having a safe place for your dog to hide, such as her crate, will likely help ease the jitters.
  • Run a fan, air conditioner, or other white noise to block some of the noise from fireworks. Dishwashers and dryers also provide soothing white noise. 
  • If your dog must be outside during festivities, make sure he has proper identification tags on his collar. This will ensure that if he does get freaked during the firework mayhem and make a run for it, he will be returned safely to his home. 
  • Exercise your dog during the day before fireworks begin.
  • Distract your dog with something fun. A treat-filled toy or frozen treat will help distract her mind from the booming celebration outside. 
Some dogs require medication to help them manage the stress of the Fourth, and there are some "behavior modification" techniques to help dogs learn to cope with fireworks better. For more tips, talk to your vet or obedience trainer.

Happy Independence Day America!

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