The Fourth of July doesn’t have to be the worst night of the year for your dog.
Below are 15 steps that can make the holiday less terrifying for your dog and less stressful for you.
Be prepared to experiment and combine different techniques. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” solution to calming your dog.
• Contact your veterinarian before the Fourth of July to discuss sedatives and Federal Drug Administration-approved medications for treating noise phobia in dogs. Test the medication on your dog before the holiday.
• Stay home on the Fourth of July to help your four-legged friend get through the night.
• Never take your dog to a public fireworks display. Pets, except for service animals, are not allowed at the Vancouver Fireworks Spectacular at the Fort Vancouver National Site.
• Make sure your dog is microchipped and is wearing a collar with a license and other identification. They will be your dog’s ticket home if it escapes.
• Take your dog for a walk or exercise at a dog park long before sundown.
• Feed your dog dinner and allow plenty of time for potty breaks before fireworks begin.
• Keep your dog indoors during fireworks. Terrified pooches have leaped over or dug under fences and broken through flimsy gates.
• Buy a dog vest that provides gentle pressure around the animal’s torso, similar to the ages-old practice of swaddling infants.
• Try a plug-in diffuser that mimics pheromones released by a lactating mother dog.
• Watch for telltale signs of stress: barking, whining, trembling, panting, pacing, freezing, drooling, yawning, hiding, urinating, defecating and self-mutilation.
• Designate a room as your dog’s sanctuary, ideally a small interior room with a fan, air conditioner or stereo to muffle fireworks noise. Dogs appear to prefer classical music to rock ‘n’ roll. Cover any windows to block or obscure flashes.
• Try keeping your dog occupied with toys and treats, including puzzle toys where the dog must work to get the treat.
• If your dog becomes panicky, offer reassurance without excessive coddling. Dogs pick up on your feelings. You want to be calm and comforting without giving any indication that something is truly wrong.
• Never scold or otherwise punish a dog afraid of fireworks or force it outside. It will only make your dog more scared.
• Purchase a CD with fireworks and other noises to slowly condition your dog. It’s too late for this year’s holiday, but it’s never too early to start preparing for 2020.