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5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Fourth of July

5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Fourth of July

It’s that time of year again where those loud things go “boom” in the sky and then you find your dog shaking in the bathtub.

Fourth of July is a time meant for celebration, barbecues and beaches, yet for owners of fearful dogs, we find ourselves asking why the teenagers down the street couldn’t just cut it out with the fire crackers instead of joining in on the fun.

Here are some things you can do now to prepare your scaredy-pup for America’s favorite holiday!

Start counter conditioning and desensitizing your dog to the sound of fireworks! We all have access to YouTube right? Find a video similar to this one, and begin playing it at a low volume. You know your dog best, so start at a level that you know they won’t be scared of. Play the sounds, and introduce yummy food; stop the sounds, and stop the yummy food. Repeat. As your dog’s comfort level increases, increase the sound, or duration you play the sounds. Even doing this once or twice in the next month could make a huge difference the day of.

Create a safe space, and get your dog used to it. Maybe you want to set up a basement area, or can throw a blanket over a coffee table, either way, you’ll want to get your dog used to that space now instead of later. Hang out with them in or near the space while they enjoy a stuffed-Kong or other type of yummy chew. Don’t forget to tell them what a good dog they are!

Get creative with your plan! If you’re like most people in urban areas, each surrounding town has their firework displays on different nights. On the night your town’s go off, take an excursion with your pet somewhere else! Go visit a friend, or enjoy a long car ride, maybe drive out to that cheeseburger stand you’ve been meaning to go to. Last year, I took my dog to an outdoor movie theater while the fireworks went off down the street from my house. Two days later, I went to a firework display in a neighboring town, will my dog slept soundly at home. It was a win-win for all!

Talk with your vet! If you have major concerns surrounding the Fourth of July holiday and your pet, speak up to the professional! Depending on your dog’s health, your vet may be able to provide you with some light sedatives or anti-anxiety medications that could help your dog cope with sudden and loud noises. Fearfuldogs.com has an awesome blog post about behavioral medicine! Additionally, over the counter products like the Thundershirt, Adaptil Collar, Composure Chews or Rescue Remedy can be incredibly helpful as well!

Prepare for the worst-hope for the best! Sometimes our dogs can be caught off guard by loud and sudden sounds- even if they normally stay close by. When animals are scared, they think survival, and dogs in survival mode can do outrageous things! I saw an English mastiff break through a window and climb onto a roof once- so I never doubt the abilities of any animal to run off when scared. Remember to check your dog’s microchip to make sure their information is up-to-date, make sure they are wearing a collar with an updated I.D. tag, be sure to have a recent photo of your pet ready, and keep your dog on leash or wearing a drag line! For extra safety- consider buying a GPS tracker!

Finally, don’t forget to comfort your pet when they are scared! The myth of reinforcing fear has been debunked for years now! Be the comforting leader your dog needs you to be!

Fireworks and the Absolute Myth of Reinforcing Fear

Fireworks and the Absolute Myth of Reinforcing Fear

I was holding back writing about the Fourth of July. It’s that one time of year that all dog lovers’ Facebook walls get flooded with articles about keeping pets indoors, playing calming music, creating forts under coffee tables, etc. I certainly didn’t want to add to that collection- there’s already plenty of that information out there!

However, last night my dog was having her yearly melt down and I happened to be traveling with her and some friends. Now, here we are in a new place, with new people and she completely out of her comfort zone. One of my friends mentioned the idea of not coddling her, because she heard that it reinforces the fear of the fireworks. Okay, let’s stop there!

This is so far from true! Here is another myth created by dog trainers and “dog experts” that has no actual scientific truth or back up. The sad thing is, that I believed this at one point to be true as well! You know where I first heard this? From watching “The Dog Whisperer.” How can you not believe sometime that is being broadcasted as fact on National Geographic? So, no I don’t blame you for believing it either.

Dogs look to us as their companions. We are their leaders, their support system and their strength. In a time when your best friend is most vulnerable, would you turn your back and ignore them, or even worse, punish them for being afraid? What would that do to your relationship? It would probably ruin it a little bit.

Remember above everything else to love your pets this weekend. Be aware of their mental state. If your dog asks for space, give your dog space. If your dog asks for comfort, comfort your dog! Most of all, have a fun, safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!!!

Read this awesome article by Patricia McConnell about why you can’t reinforce fear in dogs!!!