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I am one of those people who loathe fireworks. I have seen them maim and even kill those who use them. I have seen fires started and dogs quake with fear as a result of what are in effect mini-explosives. I am not opposed to organized displays, provided I don’t live near them, but when the neighbor’s exhausted bottle rockets used to land on my roof, I would get, well, annoyed. I got annoyed to the point where I moved to the country so I wouldn’t have to live so close to other people. But then again, this post is not about me.
You see, I worry about my dogs, who at the sound of that first whistle or bang, run under the bed, or wander around in circles crying from fear. This brings me to the most important advice I can give, after years of raising and training dogs, and that is don’t pamper them too much and I know it can be hard, because after all we love them, and our instinct is to show them that love in times of stress. We have a need to reassure, because, they are after all family.
The fact is, when we hug and pat our dogs, we are both reinforcing their behavior and conditioning them to believe that freaking out at the sound of bangs and whistles is normal and acceptable. It is not. After all, during training, we pat and coddle them as a reward for behaving the way we want them to behave. When we do the same thing as they behave like we don’t want them to behave, we are rewarding them, and that is not desirable. Then again, that’s just a theory, so feel free to reject it.
There are over-the-counter products available that might help to relax your dogs. I use Valerian Root, a homeopathic sleep aid, and it works like a charm on my pups.
Here are ten tips for providing a safe July 4th for your Canine Household:
1. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day.
2. Keep your dogs inside during fireworks, preferably with human companionship. If it’s hot, air conditioning will help.
3. Provide a safe place inside for your dogs to retreat. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs often prefer small enclosed areas. (I once had a dog who climbed in the bathtub during windstorms.)
4. If possible, keep the windows and curtains closed.
5. Make sure all your dogs are wearing ID tags with a properly fitting collar. (Dogs have been known to become Houdini around the 4th of July.)
6. Leave your dog something fun to do – like a frozen Kong filled with his favorite treats.
7. Encourage your dog to play, and play with him/her, but don’t allow them to collapse into your arms at the first bang or whistle. In point of fact, however, many dogs want to do just that, as their fear overcomes their play drive.
8. Sound Therapy: Play Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 1 and 2. It is most effective when you first play the music well before the fireworks start, at a time the dog is already peaceful and relaxed. He will begin to associate the music with being calm and content. Then play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime. The music doesn’t need to be loud to be effective as it has been clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system.
9. If you have dogs that are not exhibiting fear, play with them. This will often distract the fearful dog as he/she is always vying for your attention.
10. Get away from the fireworks. Take your dog to a quiet place, perhaps in the country, and stay with a sympathetic friend or family member.
At the risk of repeating myself I most emphatically recommend, as in tip #5, you make certain your dog is collared, tagged, and micro-chipped because some will try to run away from the horror that is taking place around them.
If you have any tips about calming your dog’s fears during fourth of July fireworks hell please share in the comments section.