While planning your Fourth of July celebration, don’t forget about your pets.
The noise and commotion that people enjoy — like loud music and fireworks — can be a major source of stress, especially for dogs.
Though some of the larger municipal displays have been canceled this year, fireworks shows are scheduled in various communities around the area.
If you’re going to a show, leave your dog at home, the ASPCA says. He won’t enjoy it, and you won’t enjoy dealing with his agitation.
It’s a sure bet that there will be plenty of DIY fireworks shows going off, too. Pennsylvania law allows the purchase of consumer-grade fireworks that include firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets and similar products.
Some dogs will bolt when they hear the first bang.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Fireworks, such as the 2019 EQT Flashes of Freedom fireworks display in Pittsburgh, can be frightening to dogs.
“July 5th is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters as companion animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted,” according to the American Humane website.
“My dogs, they could care less (about fireworks), but every dog is different,” says Angel Tunstall, owner of Paws on Main in Ligonier.
“More pets run away on the Fourth than any other day,” she says. “You’re outside having some food and drinks with friends and you’re not paying attention. It’s nothing for a dog to jump a fence and run like hell.”
“It’s fight or flight,” says Vinnie Somma, owner of Say It Once Dog Training in Plum. “They’re thinking, ‘I’ll cower or run as fast as I can.’”
It’s their acute sense of hearing that makes the day so hard on dogs, Tunstall says: “Fireworks are just really loud. Running away is their survival instinct.”
So before you hoist the flag, chill the drinks and light the grill, give a thought to your beloved canine companion. Here are a few tips to consider in keeping your dog comfortable and safe:
• A little exercise goes a long way.
Somma says it’s good to give your dog some extra physical exertion and mental stimulation in the days leading up to the holiday, if possible.
“He’ll be more tired, calmer and easier to deal with,” he says.
On the Fourth, walk your dog as much as possible during the daytime, so he will be comfortable staying in as evening approaches.
• Muffle the sound from outside.
Close windows and curtains. Turn on some music or the television to mask the sound of fireworks. If possible, put the dog in a basement or windowless, interior room.
If your dog has a crate, leave the door open so he can easily access this safe space.
• Have a special treat on hand.
Somma suggests having a soup bone for your dog to gnaw on or a high-quality chew toy, such as a Kong, that can be filled with frozen peanut butter.
• Give your dog a hug.
Tunstall says that many owners have success using calming coats or anti-anxiety wraps, such as a ThunderShirt, to soothe their pets. Event a snug-fitting T-shirt can work in a pinch.
“They put pressure on the dog’s torso and are very successful at calming them down,” she says.
• Check with your vet.
In extreme cases, a dog might need an anti-anxiety medication, Tunstall says.
Many of her customers have success in using CBD oils or treats containing CBD to keep their dogs calm, says Debbie Baker, owner of For the Love of Furbabies in Greensburg.
“It’s important to dose them before the fireworks start, as the oil takes a little while to work,” Baker says.
• License and registration, please.
Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags on a well-made, snug-fitting collar, Somma says, just in case he does run off.
Having pets microchipped and keeping recent photos of them also helps identify them if they end up at someone else’s house or in a shelter.
• Party etiquette.
Prior to fireworks, there’s often a party going on.
Somma suggests telling your guests not to pet or even acknowledge your dog as they arrive. Excess attention reinforces excitement and leads to over-stimulation, he says.
It’s important not to give your dog any human food, either. Giving treats encourages begging and can result in some nasty stomach upsets.
“You should practice the ‘leave it’ command, in case any food falls on the ground,” Somma says.
Also, keep an eye on the grill, grill accessories, alcoholic beverages, glow sticks, sparklers, citronella candles and other insect-repelling products, all of which can be harmful to curious dogs.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, email@example.com or via Twitter .
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