How to Keep Your Pups Safe During Firework Festivities
While you and I may love lighting off and watching all the biggest fireworks on the Fourth of July, that isn't the case for every member of our families. It's not a new fact that dogs run away at an alarming rate on July 4, but a city-wide search for your dog and a lot of anxiety may be avoidable with some preparation.
“If you think about it it's amazing we're not more terrified than we are,” Michelle Schenker, the co-founder of CanineJournal.com told NBC News BETTER. “An exploding bomb sound in the air is scary, and if you don't understand what it is, it's even scarier.”
Poor pups! In hopes of easing their fears a little on Independence Day, Schenker and Pia Silvani, the director of behavioral rehabilitation at the ASPCA, shared some tips for dog-owners with NBC News BETTER.
Don't bring your dog to Fourth of July events.
"Loud, crowded fireworks displays are no fun for pets (in general, regardless of their level of fear) who can become frightened or disoriented by the sound," Silvani told NBC News BETTER. "Please resist the urge to take them to Independence Day festivities and opt instead to keep them safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home. They will be safer and calmer in a quiet, comfortable and familiar space."
Make sure your dog's IDs are on and current.
If your dog gets spooked and escapes, you want to make sure they are easily traceable back to you.
Get your pup adjusted to the sound of fireworks in advance.
Silvani told NBC News BETTER you can use treats to associate the sound of fireworks (and thunder) with something positive. She said playing recordings of firework shows and thunderstorms at a low volume for your dog starting at a young age will "'normallize' the experience of hearing these noises and hopefully avoid future anxiety."
Take your dog for a loooooong walk earlier in the day.
Just like it does for humans, exercise reduces stress in animals. That's why Schenker recommends a long walk earlier in the day so they are too tuckered out to be anxious about the fireworks.
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Soothe the worries away with some constant, soft sounds and a new toy.
Something as simple as the drone of the TV or classical music can calm dogs down and ease their worries. And since Schenker told NBC News BETTER that anxiety increases the desire to chew, you'll want to give them something to chew on.... other than your couch or new pair of shoes.
As for other aids like anxiety vests, Silvani said to keep a close watch on your pets.
"An anxiety vest may work in some cases, but pet owners need to remain vigilant even if their dog has one on," Silvani told NBC News BETTER. "It is not a panacea and dogs should not be left unattended while wearing one."
Silvani also noted that you should talk to your veterinarian before resorting to anti-anxiety medication and always stick to the recommended dosage.
"If you and your veterinarian do decide that anti-anxiety medication is your pet's best bet, there are a few things to remember," Silvani told NBC News BETTER. "First and foremost, give a practice dose of the medication before the big night to see how your pet responds to the medication."
Finally, Silvani gave an important note to dog owners for the Fourth of July.
Comfort your dog.
"Your pet is in a vulnerable state and truly needs to know that ‘you have their back,’” Silvani told NBC News BETTER.
Although the coronavirus caused almost all Central New York-area organizers to cancel their firework displays, there are a few that still plan to hold large displays this summer. You can catch fireworks in Hamilton and Speculator and at Canadarago Lake and Saratoga Lake.
And even if there aren't any large displays near you, people in your neighborhood are still bound to take matters into their own hands and light some off.