By Ellyce Rothrock
If you own a dog, your first priority on the Fourth of July shouldn’t be to attend parties or ditch the house to go watch fireworks. Your main priority on this holiday is to protect, soothe, comfort and otherwise be there for your furry friend.
Can you imagine what dogs, who believe their main job is to protect their home and people, must think of fireworks? It’s an attack! Survival instinct to the max! Extremely loud and random booms from all directions…your dog can’t see where they’re coming from, can’t understand what’s going on and can’t fathom why you, Master, aren’t freaking out over all this.
Some dogs respond by cowering and hiding, some whining and crying, others panting excessively and leaning in hard, some panicking and running away at the first opportunity. They can’t fight what they can’t see, so their survival (flight) instinct kicks in. (More dogs run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.)
What an utterly miserable, horrible way to spend an evening.
Make the Fourth of July less terrifying with management tips and products designed to help calm your pet:
- Arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays — a friend’s or relative’s home or a dog day care your dog is familiar with.
- If you can’t take your dog to a place away from fireworks, keep a travel kennel at home for her to retreat to and feel safe in. If you can’t be home, recruit a friend or hire sitter to keep your dog company and take him out to relieve herself every four hours.
- If you do find it necessary to use medication or any kind of calming product to calm your dog during the fireworks, introduce it at the right time, conditioning your dog to understand that the tool(s) are there to help them remain calm.
- First bring your dog to a calm state; then introduce the tool before the fireworks and the anxiety begin. If she already is experiencing high anxiety, then her mental state will overrule the medication. If she already is breathing heavily, then a thundershirt-type product, designed to slow her breathing, won’t work.
- If you are going to be at home with your dog during the fireworks, send calming verbal, physical and energy messages to help him to relax. Your dog will look to you for clues on how she should behave. If you don’t make a big deal over fireworks or acknowledge them in any way, she will learn to be less concerned as well.
- Drown out fireworks noise with a box fan turned up on high (or use some other kind of white noise distraction).
- Expend some of your dog’s excess energy by giving her plenty of exercise earlier in the day.
- Keep your dog inside during fireworks; go with her outside when it has to potty, and make sure she is wearing her collar with ID.
- Never leave your dog outside alone or if you’re not home.
- Never bring your dog to a fireworks display.
- Provide a safe retreat, such as a crate or other small, enclosed area. Consider covering the crate.
- Occupy your dog with her favorite toys, particularly one you can fill with treats.
Product options to help calm your pet during fireworks
- Zylkene, manufactured by Vetoquinol, is a supplement that supports balanced behavior in dogs and cats and helps them cope with challenging situations that can lead to unwanted behavior and changes in mood or habits, is safe for dogs and cats on a long-term basis, but is not recommended for pets that suffer from behavior issues resulting in aggression, according to the company. Alpha-casozepine in Zylkene is believed to bind to GABA receptors, which increases the effect of this inhibitory neurotransmitter, thereby decreasing stress, the manufacturer states.
- Stress Away, made by Garmon Corp./NaturVet helps calm dogs during common stress behaviors, including restlessness, inability to relax, poor sleeping, jumpiness, irritability, destructive behaviors, excessive barking or whining, loss of appetite, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and inability to focus, according to the company. It can be given 24 hours following surgery, and the calming effect usually lasts two to three hours. Anxiety & Stress Calming Support, also made by Garmon, contains a blend of botanicals and ingredients to aid calming behavior and address nervousness, anxiety or environmental stress due to traveling, boarding or separation, the company states. It may be used long-term.
- Canine Calm, made by Earth Heart Inc., has been formulated with oils to help promote relaxation, reduce agitation, improve mood and calm fears, and it is available as a spray, diffusion blend and wet wipes, according to the company. Canine Calm aromatherapy mist can be sprayed on clothing or bedding to help calm nervous dogs. It also can be sprayed on fingertips and gently massaged on the dog’s ear flaps. Diffusing Canine Calm in the home or business can help create a calm environment, the company states.
- ThunderShirt, made by ThunderWorks, works for events that produce anxiety or fear, such as veterinary visits, car travel, crating, thunder and fireworks through its calming pressure, according to the company. ThunderCap, designed to lessen the stress of car travel, works by reducing the visual stimuli of dogs, cutting vision by 50 to 60 percent, yet still enabling a dog to navigate while wearing it, the company states.