When I think of the 4th of July, my thoughts turn to spending time with family and friends, barbeque, watermelon and of course...fireworks. As humans, we know to expect them. We have experienced them at other times, we see them sold on the roadside and in stores. We even get time off work so that we can enjoy the day and the fireworks with others. But unfortunately for our pets and other animals, they can't make sense of it. They have no calendar to refer to, no others to consult. For them the sky lights up, there is smoke and terrible noise. For them it is a time of fear.
Last year in my own neighborhood during the 4th I saw a couple of the neighbors' dogs jump their fences and run through the community howling after the fireworks started. Once their owners realized that they were missing they drove around in their cars looking for them. For those dogs all the show and celebration created fear and uncertainty.
Here are some things that humans can do to help ease the fear brought about by fireworks.
1) Get your dog a Thundershirt. Thundershirts can be found in pet stores. They are based on the concept of swaddling--much as you swaddle a crying infant. Get the dog used to the Thundershiirt well before he needs it. Put it on and take it off him several times during the days leading up to the 4th. Let him wear it for a little while. Do this while giving him treats for going through the ordeal of getting to know the product and the process involved. It is important to get the right size and put it on him properly. Please read the instructions and fitting charts on the product. It does need to be snug. Thundershirts don't help all dogs, but they do help a good percentage. It may help yours.
2) Put your dog in a quiet part of your house during the celebration. Give him something to do. A bone or a stuffed Kong may help him keep calm and will serve as a distraction. Be aware however that sometime dogs get so stressed that they won't eat or take treats until the stress diminishes.
3) Crate your dog. Kenneling or crating your dog at night or when you can't be available is not cruel and unusual punishment. Dogs naturally are denning animals and it provides a safe place of their own to go. Again, give them a job--something to play with or chew.
4) Put on some music. Many studies have proved that music acts to calm and soothe dogs.
Independence Day is a time to celebrate. Help your dog to be independent to...and not clingy and fearful.