As the Fourth of July quickly approaches, we thought it would be helpful to write a column on how to keep your dog calm, cool, and collected during the fireworks and celebrations. First and foremost, remember that fireworks, loud music, and rowdy parties may be fun for us humans, but they are generally terrifying events for dogs.
The best thing to do during the Fourth of July is to stay home with your dog, especially if he does not handle loud noises well. Try to keep the routine as normal as possible, and make scary situations positive by doing training exercises, or playing games with him. This keeps his mind off of what’s going on outside, and keeps him focused on something and someone he knows. You may also need to use more treats than normal, even if practicing a command your dog already knows. Remember he’s scared, and we all need a little extra bribe when we’re in a scared state of mind. Giving him treats will also make the situation positive, and help desensitize him to the noise. If he gets treats every time a firework goes off, he might start to think the fireworks aren’t so bad after all.
If staying home is not an option, and if you have a dog who is especially anxious, you may want to consider crating him, or putting him in a small area away from any doors or windows, like a laundry room or bathroom. Even if a window is closed, a dog may go through it to escape a scary situation. Dogs are den animals, so a crate or smaller space can provide much needed comfort for a dog who is in the middle of a “panic attack.” Give him plenty of toys to chew on that will last a while, like bully sticks or Kongs to keep him occupied, and his mind off of the scary noises. Make sure all doors and windows are secure, and consider shutting the blinds or curtains to help shut out the festivities even more.
It’s also important to try to provide a soothing, calm environment. Providing some white noise in the background can help soothe him. Items like a table fan, a radio set to static or classical music or a ticking clock can create white noise to drown out the fireworks, loud music, and other celebratory sounds.
If you would like to take your dog with you to the party, remember to take his needs into consideration. Don’t force a dog who is timid, anxious, nervous, or unsure in new situations to go to the celebration. If your dog is not going to enjoy himself, consider leaving him at home where he is comfortable. Keep in mind though, even if your dog is not generally anxious, and is normally comfortable in loud situations, make sure he is microchipped, or if he already is, that the chip has up to date contact information. Also make sure he is wearing his collar with a current license and tag on it. It’s important to plan for the worst, so just in case your dog escapes or gets away from you, he can be properly identified by someone, and his chances of returning home safely greatly increase.
If your dog has absolutely uncontrollable anxiety, consider checking with our veterinarian to see if there’s something he or she can prescribe to take the edge off. You may also want to consider making an appointment with a dog trainer to discuss his behavior issue, and create a training plan to keep him safe and happy.
Happy Fourth everyone! Keep yourself, your family, and furry family members safe and healthy! WOOF!
Alexandra (Alex) Macias has been a certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist since 2008, and is the owner of Alex Macias Dog training, a Long Beach-based dog training company. To ask Alexandra questions for a future article, leave them in the comments below, or email her firstname.lastname@example.org.