For some dogs the Fourth of July is just another family fun day. For other dogs it can be an overwhelmingly stressful and panic inducing time. The unfamiliar loud bangs and bright lights of fireworks can be downright terrifying for our furry friends. Animal shelter intake numbers skyrocket after the 4th as terrified pets escape their homes in panic and then find themselves lost and displaced.
I remember many years ago when I first started caring for dogs, I was watching a beautiful, happy go lucky Golden Retriever named Baxter. Baxter was so triggered by the fireworks that he started pacing frantically and shaking uncontrollably. I eventually built a fort for him between the coffee table and the couch. We got in there together and I held him tight and reassured him it was going to be ok. He didn't stop shaking until the fireworks were over. Not only was it heartbreaking, it was scary, as Baxter's panic was escalating and I didn't know how to calm him down.
Even though they have canceled public firework displays this year in Los Angeles, there is still the potential for rogue fireworks within communities.
Here are a few ways you can help ease the stress and keep your pup safe.
1. Keep your pets inside if possible. Make sure all doors and gates are locked and escape proof. You would be surprised how much of an escape artist your dog can become in a panicked situation. Your pet should be in a safe, comfortable space that he or she has already been well familiarized with. A well loved crate or room in the house is the best choice.
*Note If your pup needs to go on a walk, make sure you do it before the action starts.
2. There are many products on the market today that can help quell anxiety in our pets. Some of my favorites are homeopathy, Thundershirts, calming music and aromatherapy.
You can try one of them or all of them simultaneously. Ideally, to set your pup up for success you should find the right fit before the stress of the Fourth of July.
3. Make sure your pet is microchipped and is wearing updated ID tags. An easy, preventative way to ensure if they do get lost there is a greater chance that they will be returned to you swiftly and safely.
4. Consider having someone stay home during the fireworks. Dogs are social creatures and most dogs don't particularly enjoy being left alone in the first place. What better way to make them feel safe and loved than having someone there to comfort them.
5. Lastly, if you think your dog suffers from severe anxiety, consider talking to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication. Canine Xanax is a real thing and can be incredibly helpful in certain situations.