A Favorite Holiday is the Most Dangerous Day of the Year for Dogs
Don’t Miss the Five Day Challenge to learn more about why dogs fear fireworks: Your Dog’s July 4th Survival Kit – June 28 – July 2, 2019 Click below to sign up!
July 4th fireworks and summer thunderstorms can be terrifying even to ordinarily calm dogs. From a human perspective, fireworks displays are fun and storms are just a weather event. So why are these things so scary for dogs?
Fireworks are loud and don’t sound like anything else in a dog’s experience. The whistle, followed by a loud explosion and crackling noises can be alarming to dogs because the sounds are not related to any source they can understand. A dog’s more sensitive hearing can detect more levels in the range of noises.
Both fireworks and thunder are unpredictable. The dog often has no chance to recover from one startle reaction before the next explosive noise. As the shocks accumulate, panic and helplessness set in. Dogs can learn that the lightning flash precedes thunder, but the lightning also occurs at irregular intervals. With fireworks, there’s no warning.
Dogs feel threatened by these repeated loud and unexplained noises. Their fight or flight response is triggered. A dog may try to make the threat stop by barking and showing other signs of stress. Fearful dogs will hide or run away to escape. More dogs are lost on July 4th than on any other day of the year, according to rescue and shelter stats.
Dogs feel trapped and in their panic are desperate to escape. They can’t outrun the noise and their terror escalates. They are unaware of the danger of traffic.
How You Can Help Your Dog
You can keep your dog safe and comfortable during July 4th celebrations by knowing why dogs fear fireworks and by taking proactive steps to create a “survival kit”. A few small changes can make a big difference in your dog’s ability to handle the scary but unavoidable noises.
- Prepare a quiet and secluded place for your dog to stay. Choose a room with no exterior doors and with covering on the windows. Keep the windows closed.
- If he wants to “hide” under a bed or in a corner, let him do what helps him to feel safe.
- Play calming music or use a white noise machine to minimize the outdoor noises.
- Provide a way for the dog to stay busy with food puzzles or chew toys.
- Use an Anxiety Wrap or a Thundershirt to encourage calmness.
- Feed and exercise your dog early before the fireworks start. Walk him on a leash just in case he’s startled and tries to run off. Even dogs that are reliable off leash will try to escape if they feel threatened. It can happen faster than your ability to react.
- Never take a dog to a fireworks display – that would be cruel!
- Check on your dog often but let him stay in his safe room. He doesn’t need to join the party!
- Do not feed him any “party food” – much of it is unhealthy or toxic for dogs.
- Make sure ID tags and microchip are up to date.
- Have emergency phone numbers for your veterinarian, poison control, and local shelters.
- Know what foods are safe and what foods are dangerous for dogs.
- Monitor signs of stress in your dog and be prepared to minimize them.
- Be ready with earplugs, anxiety wrap, and calming music if needed.
- Prepare stuffed Kong toys and freeze them so your dog can stay cool and busy.
- Consult your veterinarian in advance if you have questions about medications.
- Take current photos of your dog.
- Have a sturdy leash ready if your dog needs to go out. DO NOT use a retractable leash!
Your knowledge and your preparation are your dog’s best defense against the not-so-dog-friendly parts of the summer. I have lots more tips and resources to share with you when you join me for the 5-Day July 4th Survival Kit Challenge. We start on June 28!
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