Dog Training Tips
The sky lights up, and... Oooooo! Aaaaww! Oohhhh!… Just a few of the sounds to be heard on the Fourth of July.
Other sounds? – The loud cracking and booming of fireworks at irregular intervals at decibel levels that can be painful to our canine companions more sensitive ears. And what about the flashing colors of lights in the sky, that in a fabulous display at close proximity, can look like they are streaming down right on top of us. Do you notice that sulphuric, gun-powdery smell? I bet your dog does!
Remember our dogs’ senses are much stronger than ours so it’s no wonder the fireworks can cause them so much stress. Some dogs do fine with fireworks, but many do not. So please be mindful of your four-legged friend(s) this holiday.
This holiday is one of the busiest for Animal Control and Impound intakes. Stressed dogs will break away from owners or caretakers and run to get away from the noise. They wind up lost or injured (or worse). It's our job to keep them safe and comfortable.
Some things you can do for your dog (and your cat, too):
- Stay home with your dog! Do not take your dog to the fireworks display, or if you do, have an alternative plan to remove them from the stressful environment should they start exhibiting any anxiety.
- Exercise your dog throughout the day and prior to dusk when the fireworks will begin. A well exercised dog will not have the energy to be as anxious as they might be otherwise.
- Be aware of the fireworks starting (including if your neighbors like to celebrate and are lighting off bottle rockets in their driveway!) and pay attention to your dog’s demeanor.
- Be cognizant of your own body, too. You want to remain relaxed and calm despite any stress your dog may be exhibiting. Don’t let the booming sounds make you jump. Breathe deeply and try to keep you routine as normal as possible.
- Don’t over-comfort your dog or pay more attention to him or her than usual. Any change in your behavior could tip them over the edge. If they are already feeling uncomfortable or stressed they need you to be dependable and as ‘normal’ as ever.
- Speak in an upbeat, yet normal tone and if you regularly play games with your dog, engage them in game. Be observant – they should be enjoying their time with you. If they are looking worried or like they aren’t having fun, stop playing and just go back to your normal activities.
- Do your best to drown out the celebratory sounds by closing windows and turning up the TV or music. You might also consider other white noise like a fan, fountain or a nature sounds CD.
- Close window shades or blinds.
- Turn on the lights.
- Allow your dog to retreat to their kennel or under a table if that makes them feel more comfortable. Consider putting a blanket or towel over the top and sides of the kennel to make it more den-like.
- A Thunder Shirt, Anxiety Wrap or tight fitting T-shirt can be helpful if your dog is easily stressed. (Be aware though, that your dog may need some time to get used to these 'clothes.' Also, it's a good idea to put the shirt on a few hours prior to the event. Putting it on after the fireworks have begun may not have the same affect, and could diminish the effectiveness of the item.)
- Don’t try to coax your dog to do anything.
- If you cannot be with your dog during the fireworks display, make sure they are left in a safe and secure place. Close windows and doors and make sure they don’t have access to anything dangerous. A stressed dog will do things they wouldn’t normally do. Some behaviors might include chewing shoes, getting into garbage or destroying beds or furniture. It’s really in your best interest to make sure someone is home with your dog to help them feel secure.
- If you are leaving your dog with a relative or dog sitter for the holiday, make sure the caretaker is aware of how to help your dog during this stressful occasion.
- Make sure your dog has a well-fitted collar (only two fingers should fit under the collar… it’s a collar not a necklace). A frightened dog can easily slip out of or back out of an improperly sized collar. Write your phone number on the inside of the collar with a Sharpie. Make sure you have up-to-date, readable identification tags on your dog’s collar.
- CATS: follow above information as applicable and keep your cat indoors during the holiday.
Your pet is depending on you. Let’s make this a happy and safe Independence Day for all of us! Happy 4th!