By Mikkel Becker, CPDT-KA, CDBC, CTC. KPA Graduate
The Fourth of July is an exciting time of year, but it can also be a stressful one for your dog. Here are five tips to making sure your dog is prepped and ready for the big day!
1. During the Fourth of July and days leading up to it, fearful dogs are likely to do better with indoor activities—like training games or food puzzles—instead of walks. You never know when fireworks might go off nearby. If walking, keep dogs secured on a fixed length leash and harness or a limited slip martingale collar (potentially clipping the leash to both the harness and collar, or using two leashes), that way they can’t back out of if startled. Supervise all outside activities, including bathroom breaks in the yard, which in some cases are best done on leash for sensitive dogs who may panic. Carefully watch the door or keep the dog on leash while supervised or in a secure area if people are going in and out of the home. Keep ID tags on.
2. Use classical music or music formulated for pets to drown out excess noise. In addition, use a white noise machine to further block noises, especially during lulls in music. Compression garments and the smell of lavender and chamomile also help! There is also a variety of sound blocking accessories available that your dog may benefit form as well.
3. Have tasty treats, chews and favorite toys on hand to employ when sounds start. Don’t wait for fear to progress, but start intervening at early stages by refocusing the dog on something else that they enjoy doing. Our family dog, Quixote, is settled out of his fear when we do a group howl with him. Hint: do what works! A quick game of chase after a stuffed toy on a rope, a game of ball or super tasty treats might do the trick. For some dogs, calming massage may help. Others do best if they have a safe space to bunker into to hide, like crate with the door open and blankets over the top or a closet or bathroom area.
4. Seek professional help if your dog has extreme fear issues with noise. A Fear Free Certified Professional near you may be a great resource. Working with a reward based trainer or veterinary behaviorist may also be needed to fully address your dog’s anxiety in the future. Sometimes medications or supplements along with training can help even the most fearful dogs regain peace.
5. Lastly, remember to keep calm yourself as dogs pick up on our own emotional state. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing can both soothe you and in turn help your pet relax.