Written by: Kizz Robinson, lead trainer at PumpkinPups Dog Training and runs her own training business, 2B Dog Training.
What one day of the year are the most dogs lost in the US? If you guessed the 4th of July, you're right!
My dog, Ed, hasn't shown any signs of fear around fireworks in the past but this year, as people in my neighborhood have been experimenting with their fiery purchases, he's seemed more on edge so I'm making plans for a safe and happy Independence Day. Some of our clients' dogs are so young that they haven't experienced fireworks season before. Other clients already know how their dogs will react.
Wherever your dog is on the spectrum of worry - from worry-free to panic - it's a good idea to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips for keeping things calm.
1. Check the fit of your dog's collar and harness. For the collar gently tug on it to be sure that if it can't slip over your dog's head by accident. Remember to feed your dog for tolerating that tugging!
For the harness check to see if it seems loose under the arms and across the chest. Wiggly dogs can bend a a leg and sneak out of a harness if they're panicked. We want the harness to fit firmly but not uncomfortably.
2. Double up on safety by attaching your dog's collar to their harness when you go out. You can use a lightweight carabiner or a cat collar looped through the D ring of your dog's collar and the front clip of their harness. This way, whether your leash is clipped to collar or harness, if your dog squeaks out of one piece of equipment you'll still be attached to them.
3. Start using calming aids now. Get some Adaptil spray, some treats with L-theanine in them, download Through A Dog's Ear music and start using them now so your dog feels relaxed before the surprises of 4th of July celebrations.
4. It's not too late to ask your vet about medication. If you already know that your dog is anxious at this time of year it's a good idea to ask your vet about medication. There are several good options that your vet can fill you in on. If you're soliciting advice from friends and family please be careful. Acepromazine is a medication that used to be used for fears of loud sounds and isn't any more. Here's an article outlining why that change was made.
5. Make a safe room. Whether your dog has never experienced fireworks or if they're old hands at it they all deserve a safe space to take a break. At my house I close off the living room, draw the shades, turn on all the fans to cover the noise, turn the TV up, and we snuggle together on the couch from about 8p on July 4th until the morning of July 5th.
If your dog has a safe space that they tend to retreat to in times of trouble like a crate, a closet, or the bathtub make sure that space is extra comfy and easily accessible.
6. Don't go out into the thick of things. Fireworks are best experienced after dark. Make a plan to walk your dog before full dark and to get up a bit earlier the following morning to account for your dog's early walk the night before.
7. Bring on the puzzle toys and chews! If your dog has plenty of irresistibly delicious food puzzles to work on during the excitement they're more likely to feel better about it.
8. Please comfort your dog. Petting, soothing, and comforting your dog will not reinforce their fear. When fireworks or thunderstorms surprise me petting my dog helps me to calm down. The reverse is also true. For many dogs being close to us and being calmly pet is a big help.
Have a wonderful holiday!
Kizz Robinson is a lead trainer at PumpkinPups Dog Training and runs her own training business, 2B Dog Training. Her dog, Eddie, is 10 and looks forward to snuggling all night long on July 4th.
Elizabeth H. Robinson, CPDT-KA
2B Dog Training
(917) 364 7644