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Liame and Jasper in their Thundershirts on the 4th of July in 2010
Since I used to have a VERY sound sensitive dog service dog, I knew what a pain the 4th of July can be for both human and dog alike. The lack of sleep, the pacing dogs and the ultimate fear that they might jump through the window in an attempt to get out of the house are all my daily companions in the days preceding, during and after the fourth. Remember dogs have feelings just like humans do and its not fun to exist in a state of anxiety in which you fear for your life for hours upon end.
What most people dont realize is that with a little bit of planning you can make sure your dog doesn’t suffer from severe anxiety during the sometimes illegal festivities enjoyed by your neighbors.
PREPARATION FOR THE DAYS LEADING UP TO FIREWORKS SEASON:
- GO TO THE VET NOW – Be prepared with medication ahead of time, a puppy doggie emergency room visit can run over $200. Call your vet TODAY, tell them you have a sound sensitive dog and ask them for recommendations on medications to help ease your dogs anxiety. Its better to be prepared than sorry that you didn’t get to the vet in time. Remember to ask for several days worth of medication. We have neighbors who regularly set off fireworks on the 3rd, 4th and the 5th!
- Make sure your dogs tags and microchip information is up to date. If your dog does escape (more dogs are lost during the 4th than any other holiday) at least he will be able to come home safely if found by a stranger.
- Prevent this problem from ever occurring in the first place. When you get your next dog, immediately enroll him or her into a positive reinforcement puppy class like the ones at the Service Dog Academy in Seattle. We will help you get your dog used to firecrackers in a safe environment.
CONTROLLING THE ENVIRONMENT ON CELEBRATION DAYS:
Its not just the noise that the fireworks make but also the smell and light given off by them that can have an effect on your dog.
- Put your dog in a “safe” room with as few windows and doors as possible. Dogs have been known to try to escape by jumping through plate glass windows!
- Keep the windows and curtains drawn during the festivities. You want your dog to be as stimulus free as possible.
- Make your own noise to drown out the sound of the fireworks. I usually make it a movie holiday and watch the entire Back to the Future series and the Indiana Jones series (Indiana was named after his dog!) as loud as I can tolerate it. We also set up numerous fans in the safe room so that they produce a fairly decent amount of background noise.
Liame and Jasper playing in the dog park on 4th of July getting as exhausted as possible.
TO MANAGE / EASE FEAR IN YOUR DOG OR PUPPY
- Never EVER punish a fearful dog. You will only make the fear even worse.
- Make sure your dog is as TIRED as possible. I usually don’t recommend my clients go to the dog park but I make an exception on the 4th. A tired dog is a calmer dog.
- Use some type of pressure wrap. Although wraps such as the Thundershirt claim to completely eliminate anxiety we here at the Service Dog Academy have only seen them help in reducing the overall level of anxiety. We have several Thundershirts available for sale but you can make your own anxiety reducing wrap by using an ace bandage. See this webpage for more information on how to make your own anxiety reducing pressure wrap.
- Only feed your dog half of his morning meal so that by the time evening rolls around he is hungry and wants the food more than they care about the fireworks.
- Associate fireworks noise with food. Dogs have 250 million scent receptors and their noses are 200 times more sensitive than a humans! The use of food with an anxious dog helps replace the feeling of fear with a positive action, eating food. If every time your dog hears a firework, the best treats in the world rained from the sky, your dog might not feel so scared.
- The act of chewing helps a dog to relieve anxiety in dogs. Try to keep your dog entertained all night long with Kongsicles or work to eat puzzles and plenty of high value bones to chew on. You can view our free youtube video on how to make a Kongsicle on our recent blog posting.
- Try practicing a little T-Touch massage therapy on your dog. Sometimes just stroking from the base of the ear to the tip of the ear slowly can help relieve anxiety.
- Add a little Parmesan cheese and/or egg whites to your dogs kibble or Kongsicle. They have 8 times the tryptophan that turkey has in it. Tryptophan is the precursor to the production of serotonin (the happy chemical) in the brain. We cant give you exact amounts of parmesan or egg whites on this post since dogs vary in size, but just a sprinkle of these two foods over your dogs kibble should suffice.
I hope these tips help you make the 4th more enjoyable for both you and your fur kids. I look forward to seeing you in our upcoming classes or around town sometime!
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Happy Tails To You!
Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS