July 4th is around the corner, along with the fireworks that inevitably come with this holiday. Almost all humans with canines in the United States declare this day the worst day of the year for their dogs. Veterinarians say that July 3rd is usually the most trafficked day in their offices, with clients coming in to get drugs for their dogs. A few years ago, I found a lost dog on the 4th of July. He was obviously a well fed, groomed, and trained dog that escaped his yard when he heard the fireworks. When I called our local Humane Society, I was informed that it is the busiest time of the year for them, as more dogs are found wandering loose on July 4th than any other day of the year in the U.S.
10 Tips for providing a safe July 4th for your Canine Household: (Please note that tips 9, and 10 require purchasing items ahead of time.)
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. Bringing your dogs to a fireworks display is never a good idea.
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.) If your dog is comfortable in a crate, that is a good option.
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.
Using sensory enrichment to calm dogs:
7. Sound Therapy: Play Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1, 2, and 3 by Through a Dog’s Ear. It is most effective when you first play the music well before the fireworks start, at a time the dog is already feeling 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. Listen to free sound samples. Two years ago, I received a heart warming email from a woman who told me that it was the first 4th of July that she didn’t need to drug her dog, thanks to the music of Through a Dog’s Ear. On previous years, he had jumped out of windows. She said, “It was like Dog Ambien! Dambien!” Read the full story
8. Sound Therapy combined with Desensitization: The Canine Noise Phobia series (CNP) consists of four CD’s that can be used individually or as a set: Fireworks, Thunderstorms, City Sounds, and Calming. CNP is an innovative desensitization training tool that combines three distinctive elements for the treatment and prevention of sound-sensitivities and noise-phobias:
- progressive sound effects (distant/close)
- specially-designed psychoacoustic music (Through a Dog’s Ear)
- reward-based reinforcement protocols (Victoria Stilwell)
Here’s what Nancy Weller said after using CNP Fireworks:
“I am preparing for New Years Eve. The most skittish of the greyhounds already went to bed. My boy is just game for everything. Tonight, we are relaxing to the Phobia Series Fireworks. He fights hard to stay awake. The subtle fireworks make him stare at the speaker. Then not. 75+ lb brindle boy, sleeping like a baby. Mom might have to curl up too.”
9. Tactile: There are two canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs. The original Anxiety Wrap was invented by professional dog trainer Susan Sharpe, CPDT-KA. The patented design uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. The thundershirt is also a wrap for your dog that provides gentle, constant pressure. Their website reports that over 85% of Thundershirt users see significant improvement in noise anxiety symptoms. Most dogs respond with the very first usage; some need 2-3 usages before showing significant improvement.
10. Scent: Canine Calm, an all-natural mist from Earth Heart™ Inc., can help dogs relax and cope more effectively with loud noises and other stressful situations. Directions on their website say to spray Canine Calm onto your hands and massage the dog’s outer ears or abdomen. Or lightly mist the air behind your dog’s head, inside the travel crate or car, or directly onto bedding or clothing.
Do you have any additional tips for helping keep dogs calm and safe on this noisy holiday? Thanks for clicking comment below and sharing your suggestions. Also, feel free to share how your dogs have acted during previous July 4th holidays.