Enjoying a Relaxing Independence Day, or From the Dog’s Perspective: Surviving the Apocalypse

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July 4th was always one of my favorite holidays growing up. Where we lived, it was legal to fire off fireworks, and my favorite were the Roman Candles. Independence Day always ended with the customary light show lasting late into the night. I do not remember ever thinking about the impact the holiday had on our Pekapoo. I don’t remember it being an issue, but looking back I suspect the issue was that we couldn’t see what our dog was going through.

I have now been training dogs for over a decade, and I am painfully aware of the effect fireworks have on man’s best friend. There is simply no way for a dog to understand what the sudden loud noises are, where they are coming from, and if it is safe to come out from under the couch.

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There are a few things you can do to help your dog through this time.

  • Ask neighbors if they would consider not shooting fireworks. If they aren’t willing to give them up, ask them what time they plan on starting so you can make a plan for your dog.
  • Download an amazon audio file of the sound of fireworks. Play it very quietly in the background for the next few weeks during your dog’s meal and playtimes. Start the soundtrack quietly just before the fun starts. Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the volume, but never enough to alarm your pet.
  • When the day comes, place your pet in an interior room with classical piano music playing. Check out the music and corresponding study in “Through a Dog’s Ear”. This type of music was found to be the most calming. Give your pet something super-awesome to focus on, like a nice raw meaty bone! If your dog has problems being confined like this sit with him. If you absolutely cannot sit with him do some practice runs starting with just a few minutes (or even seconds). Put him in the room, give him something really awesome, let him be – time yourself! Don’t be gone long enough to upset him! Return to your dog, take his stuff, and let him out. Gradually work up time. Better yet, just change your plans and sit with your dog!
  • Do not under any circumstances leave your dog outdoors! July 5th is the single busiest day for shelters across the US. Dogs are picked up as strays after escaping their yards in a panic. Leaving your dog in the yard could end in a lost dog, or in him being killed. It’s not worth the risk.

I want to strongly urge you to plan to spend this holiday home with your pets. It’s the safest and least frightening thing for them. Break out the grill and have a day of it, but when the time comes for the fireworks to start go inside and create a safe space for your dog.

About Dawn Gardner, CPDT-KA

I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), an administrator of the Modern Dog Group, and a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). I am also a freelance writer for dog related publications. I have been training dogs since 1997, promoting force-free, science based training methods, instructing group classes and providing private in-home dog training. I have worked extensively with dogs with behavioral issues, including those suffering from anxiety, aggression and other stress related disorders. I have dedicates much of my free time to rehabilitating and re-homing shelter dogs with a variety of rescue organizations. As part of my passion for advocating science based dog training methods, I have had the privilege to lecture at Virginia Tech’s School of Veterinary Medicine. In 2014 I returned to Arkansas after 12 years in rural North Carolina, where Happy Hound Pet Services began in 2007. I live in Rudy, Arkansas, with my nine dogs and occasional foster dogs.
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