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Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is coming up, and that means barbecues, bonfires, poolside drinks, and …fireworks.
That’s right, fireworks. The word that no pet parent enjoys hearing. Those loud and unpredictable booms can really set off our dogs. What once was an enjoyable experience for us now causes stress, guilt, or frustration. You’re starting to dread fireworks yourself!
Thunder we can deal with, we know it comes after lightning, and we can try to catch it and soothe our pups. Fireworks can be any time, anywhere. More pets go missing on the 4th of July than any other holiday – the loud noises causing them to bolt in search of a place to hide. This Independence Day, we’re giving you some tips on how to keep your dog chill and relaxed so that everyone can enjoy the celebration safely.
As hard as it is to give real-world practice during a fireworks display, you can begin to desensitize your dog to those scary sounds in a couple of ways. First, look up a video on YouTube of fireworks to play to your dog. Try to start softly and treat them right as the sound is happening. As your dog gets more comfortable, you can increase the volume. While your dog may not be spooked by the sound of the video, it still creates a positive association with a loud noise and something good coming their way. We recommend using some high-value rewards they don’t get too often, like our freeze-dried lamb liver!
After your dog is starting to relax around the sound of fireworks through a video, try to find a time you can practice in real time. Weekends and warm nights are always a popular time for people to set off some fireworks, so be ready with some calming music or white noise and some treats. If you can, catch the exact moment of the noise while giving your dog a treat. Tell them “yes, good job!” if they remain calm and take the food. The more time you can spend desensitizing slowly, the better off your dog will be in the long run.
Our dogs like to feel secure. Knowing that they are taken care of can help them put their anxieties at ease, remembering that mom and dad have this scary situation under control. When firework displays are underway, try to calm your dog down by petting or brushing them – if they like that! – and relax with them. Don’t make a huge fuss, you don’t want to reinforce the fear, but giving them some relaxing petting and watching some TV with them will help them realize that this is nothing to be afraid of. A soothing snug wrap like a ThunderShirt can help as well, by swaddling your dog like a baby.
Obviously, if you could stop the sound of fireworks for your dog, you would. The good thing is, though, we can usually see them coming. Holidays like Juneteenth, the 4th of July, and New Year’s are firework-heavy celebrations, so you can be ready with some tools under your belt. Exercise your dog before the evening to help them physically relax. Set them in a comfy room with their favorite toys and enrichment puzzles. Licking is a soothing activity for dogs, so consider using a Kong or a LickiMat for them to keep their minds occupied. You can also try CBD for your dog! CBD is a great tool to mitigate anxiety during stressful experiences because compounds in the oil act on endocannabinoid receptors in the brain which can produce calming effects for our pets. While it won’t entirely fix your dog’s anxiety, it can help ease their minds enough to focus on other things, like their treats or desensitization training – which will keep them too busy to worry about the fireworks outside!
Regardless of what you do to prepare your pet, make sure you put your dog’s name tag on as well as making sure your pet is microchipped, keep them on leash when outdoors, and consider getting a GPS tracker like a Fi Collar or AirTag in case your pet does take off. If you’re bringing your dog to a cookout or bonfire, remember to keep in mind table scraps. Know what is okay and what isn’t, and set whatever boundaries are most comfortable for you with friends and family! Stay safe and healthy, and enjoy!