July Fourth: A bad day for dogs
By Tracie Korol
Two years ago, I was a guest at a Fourth of July celebration. I brought brownies; another guest brought his Weimaraner. As per usual for me, the small talk soon lost my interest and I went to spend time with the dog. He had been sequestered in the garage away from the festivities and was already stressing from being separated from his human. (Weims particularly dislike being apart from their people). He panted and paced, refused all offers of treats and was generally having a crummy time. Then it got dark.
The owner came out and gave his dog a Benadryl. Almost immediately, out in the yard, the homegrown fireworks display began. The Weim became a sniveling wreck, he paced and screamed and then the antihistamine kicked in. He became a disoriented sniveling heap that had trouble standing up. Offering advice about someone else’s dog at a beery funfest is rarely appreciated; I have learned the hard way. So, let me serve up some common sense before the most-hated day in Dog World is upon us.
For many dogs, the first “Wheee!” of a rocket they hear sends them under the bed, quivering from nose to tail. A few dogs, the hunters and police dogs, have nerves of steel and don’t mind fireworks but most turn into panting, trembling wrecks at the first loud bang. A dog’s hearing is 10 times more sensitive than a human’s, so logically fireworks cause pain. The anxiety and stress are bonus miseries.
If you’re thinking of taking your dog to watch the fireworks with you — think again! You and your dog will have much more enjoyable evenings if you leave the dog at home. Aside from the danger associated with your dog being in the wrong place at the wrong time (dogs and fire simply don’t mix), the mass hysteria, loud noises and repeated flashes of light are likely to have a traumatic effect on your Best Friend. He not going to have a fun time trapped in a hot car, either. Leave him at home.
Best to leave him indoors where he is likely to do the least amount of harm to himself or your home, preferably a crate if he’s already used to being in a crate. The evening of the Fourth of July is not the time to introduce crate training, however. Imagine yourself being jammed in a stuffy confined box for the first time, AND THEN the aliens begin attacking the house. Not fun.
Flashing lights can scare your dog just as much as the loud noises. Close the curtains and blinds inside your home and turn ON all the lights in the room. This will make the bright lights from fireworks less noticeable to your dog. There’s also some small degree of soundproofing afforded by closed drapes, lowering the high-pitched sounds a tiny bit.
New research posits that standard allopathic medicines prescribed for noise phobia can actually worsen fears because while they may immobilize the dog, they do not relieve anxiety. They can “scramble” a dog’s perception. The dog can be fully aware of the frightening stimulus (e.g. fireworks sounds) but be physically unable to move. Sounds cruel to me. Additionally, his senses may be heightened or confused by medication, upping his fear level and ultimately worsening his phobia. Studies show that sound sensitivity can broaden so poor pet can develop anxiety reactions to thunder, airplanes, truck engines or even the sound of a metal pan hitting the floor. However, there are several natural remedies that will safely and effectively offset noise phobias and hands-on techniques to reduce stress.
Theoretically, a rousing game of fetch or a very long walk earlier in the day may tire your dog so he may be less likely to over-exert himself later if/when he becomes stressed from the sound of fireworks. I’ve found, though, that fear trumps fatigue most of the time. You can give it a try; it might work.
And most importantly, in this county with its high numbers of euthanizations, be sure your dog has over-adequate identification before the Fourth rolls around. Shelters nationwide always have an increase in lost dogs on the Fourth— dogs have been known to dig under fences, break through glass windows and doors, to bolt free. If he manages to escape his confinement, the worst thing would be, well, you know what the worst thing would be.
If you look at this holiday as your dog does, then you’ll do the right thing.
BowWOW! Is a production of Tracie Korol and wholeDog.
She is a trainer, dog behaviorist, canine massage therapist (CMT), herbalist, and canine homeopath. Want more information? Have a question? Send a note to Tracie at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wholedog.biz.