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Fourth of July and Firework Phobia

This week’s guest blogger is Dee Hoult of Applause your Paws, a.k.a., Zohan’s Auntie Dee!  Click here for some great tips on surviving the Fourth of July with a fireworks-phobic dog!  Zohan’s all set with his Thundershirt, Kongsicle, and Tibetan gong CD. #rockinthesafespace

Every year without fail, I know at least one person who loses their dog on the Fourth of July. I actually dread getting on Facebook on the morning of July 5th because inevitably somewhere on my newsfeed, I'll see a post from a  friend, client or colleague that says something to the extend of "but she never jumps the fence," "he's never run away from home before," "I can't believe she pulled out of her leash she's never done that."  

When faced with what could easily perceived as a life or death situation, it's no wonder that many dogs, regardless of their training, go into a panic at the sound of fireworks. We know what the Fourth of July is all about. Yet, our canine companions have no clue why, seemingly out of  nowhere, the sky fills with flashing, sparkling lights accompanied by what surely sounds gunshots and explosions. So if you're considering taking your dog with you to celebrate liberty, freedom, and America, please think again. The safest place for your dog on the Fourth of July is at home.

Some people are lucky that their dogs aren't firework, thunderstorm, or noise phobic. But, for the sensitive canine soul out there, here are some tips for surviving the celebration of the red, white and blue.

If your dog is microchipped, make sure all the information is up to date.

What good is that microchip if your old phone number and address are on it?! Or even worse, if you never registered it when you adopted your pet and/or had the chip implanted?! Should your dog become lost on the Fourth of July and end up at the county shelter, the first thing they'll do is scan him for a microchip. They can call you immediately if your dog is found.

Ensure your dog is wearing a collar with physical ID tags.

You would think in this day and age everyone and their mom knows that dogs could have a microchip. You would be surprised that people still simply don't know to take a dog they find to the closest vet hospital to be scanned for a chip. Make it easy for someone to return your dog to you by ensuring he has a physical ID tag with your phone number on it. Better yet, include your home address. Save them the drama; they can bring him straight back to your house.

Prepare a secure area indoors, away from windows and exterior doors where your dog can relax and ride out the fireworks.

If your dog was ever previously crate trained and is comfortable in a crate, this is the safest place for him.. Do not underestimate a dog who becomes panicked!  In my profession I see dogs go through glass windows, wooden doors, drywall, squeeze through incredibly small holes, dig out of what we perceive as a secure back yard, scale 10 foot fences… the list goes on. When  dogs experience panic,  they can become disoriented, meaning that if they were to somehow escape your home they are not just going to wander a few streets over, they are going to RUN. Even the most well trained dogs can end up miles from home in a matter of hours if they are scared. As the fireworks continue to boom, a dog will continue to run in order to find shelter. The best way to construct your doggie den is to use a crate and cover it with towels or a lightweight blanket. Dogs feel more comfortable in a small, darker, snuggly space. Make it as comfy as your dog typically likes his dog bed.

Provide a high value bone or chew toy during the fireworks display.

If your dog loves a certain type of chew bone or food item, this is the perfect time to provide it to your dog in his doggie den. My favorite high value food chews and toys include Himalayan yak chews and stuffed Kongs. I prefer to stuff my dog's Kongs with something like sweet potato, fat free plain yogurt mixed with wet dog food or boiled chicken, and then put it in the freezer for a few hours so it can harden. Then your dog can enjoy a Kongsicle (Kong+popsicle) in his doggie den. You want to give your dog the food item just as the fireworks are starting so he can already be busy working his treat when the fireworks really get going.

Do not leave your dog outside in your back yard unsupervised on the 4th of July.

Not for one second! Don't even think about it! If you have an outdoor dog I am begging you to please bring your dog inside for this one day/evening. I can't tell you how many beautiful animals end up at our county shelter on the 5th of July. Or how many others will get hit by a car or injured running on the street before they ever get picked up. This is the one day you have to take every precaution that your dog is secure and safe to prevent him from following his natural instincts to avoid what he may very well consider a life or death experience. I can't even imagine what fireworks must sound like, or look like to a dog. Their hearing is so incredibly sensitive, fireworks are likely painful too.

Consider boarding your dog with your veterinarian.

If you know your dog gets highly stressed by fireworks, it's worth considering an overnight stay at your vet. Some  vets with a boarding kennel have a staff person who supervises all animals in their care overnight. Most are designed with extra insulation to muffle the sound of barking dogs, which also muffles the sound of fireworks. Concrete roofs are an added bonus, as these muffle sounds as well. You'll have peace of mind knowing your pet is secure, safe, and has access to veterinary care should they need a little pharmaceutical help in order to cope with the booms and cracks of the celebration.  Meanwhile you can go out and enjoy your fireworks display!

Try some complimentary therapies to ease your dog's nerves.

Some of the most popular non pharmaceutical therapies that can help dogs feel less stressed include Rescue Remedy, Thunder shirt, DAP Collar/Diffuser and Through a Dog's Ear calming music for canines! Your dog cannot overdose on these natural and safe stress relieving remedies. The worst that can happen is that their administration will have no affect on your dog. Yet, if they do provide some relief, they're well worth the investment. All of these therapies can be used at other stressful times in your dog’s life, too.

Hug your Dog.

If you're not planning on going out and are going to stay home with your doggie, you have my permission to kiss, love, and reassure your dog when they're scared. Contrary to popular belief you cannot reinforce fear. If your dog feels comforted by your petting, hugging, snuggling or laying with him when he's scared then do it! You can think of me and my 11 year old Border Collie Zoe who will likely be under a blanket with me and my husband. Yes, she'll still be shaking but the panting, drooling and pacing stops when she can snuggle up to her favorite people that she trusts to keep her safe.

Happy Fourth of July! I hope your dog gets at least one hog dog from the grill.

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