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4th of July and Your Pet

Posted by Briana Graber on

4th of july, American flag, firework

Surprising fact: July 5th is the busiest day for animal shelters due to owners trying to reclaim their lost dogs.  Okay, perhaps not so surprising if you're a dog owner.  Particularly if your dog is afraid of thunder or fireworks as so many are.  Dogs don't know it's the 4th of July and that fireworks are something to expect.  They aren't even aware that they should probably expect a neighbor to start popping them off as soon as June rolls around, and sadly, there's little we can do to help our pets understand.  But what we can do is try to understand them, and also take measures to make sure they're as comfortable as possible on what is perhaps the scariest night of the year for our furry friends.

You know that shock of adrenaline that rushes through you during a jump scare in a horror movie?  The way you freeze for a second if you turn on the car only to remember the radio's volume was cranked way up to rock out to that last song before you got out?  Dogs have much of the same reaction.  Their hearts pound against their ribcage, adrenaline spikes in bursts throughout their body, and their stress hormones increase.  It's not fun for them.  They don't know to anticipate it.  To them, it's not mild.  It's as if you went out for a glass of water in the middle of the night, only to stumble on an intruder in your house.  It's terrifying, it's fear.  This, however, is a normal reaction for a pet.  The sound of fireworks is the sound of an unknown danger.  

There is some good news, however.  First, not all dogs are sensitive to fireworks.  Whew.  Second, if you start early in their young life, you can train them to be resilient to most loud noises, and if you start training your older dog a few months in advance, you can slowly work them up to fireworks and train them not to be quite as jumpy by rewarding calm behavior.

But, Independence Day is just around the corner for most of us, so for those dogs who are afraid of fireworks and with no time to ease them into it, there's a few tips to keep in mind.  First, and hopefully most obvious, if your pet hates fireworks or thunder, or if you don't know their reaction, don't bring them to a fireworks display.  It's not as easy to keep track or hold of a dog thrust into fight-or-flight reaction as you might think.  Adrenaline is a powerful thing.  Keep them indoors and use background noise like television, radio, a white noise machine, or even just a fan to give their ears something else to focus on and distract a bit from the booming noise of fireworks.  Last, just be with them.  Stay calm, give them comfort, and if they're up for it, even play with them to help keep their mind off the "danger" they're perceiving.  If they go outside at all, make sure their collar is snugly fitted and their ID tags are up-to-date.  Just in case.

Have a great 4th of July!