The day after July 4th is usually chaotic for animal shelters and humane societies across the country. Think about it: with the fireworks, backyard BBQs, and general shenanigans that go along with our national holiday there’s plenty of opportunities for dogs to get in harm’s way – and motivation for them to escape too. Many shelters even say their busiest day of the year is July 5.
Even if your K9 doesn’t necessarily have storm anxiety or noise sensitivity – and is conditioned to gunfire – they can still get stressed during the loud and haphazard noise of fireworks, the bright lights and the barrage of the boom-boom-boom. Especially as the fireworks get earlier and earlier every year (or is it just us).
Below are a few tips from our own experience to prepare for your backyard celebrations. Plenty of these can apply all summer long too, we know you’re not storing the grilling equipment just yet.
By the way, this is a great piece that outlines how unexpected fireworks (before or after the Fourth) can affect our veterans, too. Please consider talking to your veteran neighbors before you set off early or late fireworks this year, so that they can be prepared.
You are anticipating the fireworks, but a dog’s acute senses makes him that much more sensitive to the all-of-a-sudden, magnified sounds that come out of nowhere. Some fireworks produce strong odors that may also heighten that anxiety. Just be aware that if your dog is spooked, he’ll get a rush of adrenaline and stress hormones.
If you’ve crate trained your dog correctly, he should feel most secure in his den; that’s his safe place. Be sure he’s in his comfortable place, preferably in the middle of the house, to wait it out when instinct tells him to seek cover. Place it in a spot that is easily accessible and away from windows. Put their favorite toys and blankets inside. Drape towels or blankets over the kennel windows to enhance the “den setting.” The dog will eventually see it as a comfort zone to hunker down in the sounds hit.
This is really for the dog owner with a puppy, but exposing your dog to loud noises and recordings at an early age will oftentimes leave him unfazed the rest of his life. If it’s too late for that sometimes practicing with loud noises – gunshots, even recorded firework sounds – leading up to the holiday can lower his sensitivity. Make sure to associate a treat with those loud noises too, like food or a retrieve.
If you know your dog panics around loud sounds, thunder or fireworks, plan accordingly. Leaving them at home alone and not crated – especially outside – sets them up to try to escape, do damage to themselves, or to your home. If you have left the house, be sure the windows are closed. We also suggest turning the TV on loud, or placing a fan nearby, to provide a white noise effect and muffle the frightening noises.
Always look to the expert for the best advice. If your dog has had a severe reaction in the past they may recommend a mild sedative – and some people even use Melatonin or Benadryl (though, fair warning: they do have the reverse effect on some dogs).
Things happen; your dog runs away because he’s scared, or even goes off looking for the mark. Follow the old Boy Scout motto so that if the worse happens, you can find him. If he’s not already chipped, at least make sure you’ve got updated ID tags secured to the collar.
Dogs feed off of your emotional state and he’ll be looking to you for reassurance that there is no real danger. Understand that he needs that from you – and simple things like giving a reward, or exercising him for a bit, can help.
Grilling is usual a social activity and if you have a dog roaming the backyard you may forget he’s there. If your dog has a naughty habit of snatching food off plates, jumping on surfaces to snag the goods or in general just nosing around for a treat… you should be extra mindful. A hot grill and an inquisitive dog is a vet trip waiting to happen.
Dogs should eat healthy dog food, only. If you’re going to bring your pup around a barbecue, then you should keep a keen eye on the menu, in case an accident were to happen. Your typical barbecue foods and beverages aren’t great for the pup. Be wary of garlic, raw eggs, avocado, grapes, apples, chocolate, chives, onions and alcohol… while not all poisonous, definitely not good for your dog’s gut/digestive health.
For some foods, the concern is how it can be ingested, like corn on the cob and various types of bones. In fact, cooked bones can be more prone to splinter, which is dangerous for you and your dog! Be sure to keep an eye on the trash cans and make sure the lids are always closed securely.
Remember those summer temperatures can create a tough environment for your dog. Dogs can suffer from heat stroke quickly, so you’ll want to plan ahead. Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water, shade to lay down in and a cool breeze.
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