MUTTerings: July 4th Fireworks Safety

Dogs run away every day, but more dogs run away on the 4th of July than on any other day in the U.S.

Zoey and Pearl in ThundershirtsWhy? Well, it’s not for the hotdogs and hamburgers, though that’s a good reason to jump the fence. No, they run away due to fear from the noise of the fireworks.

Do not take your dog to your town’s fireworks display. The fireworks are fun for you, but they are unexpected for your dog, and can create panic. A dog can pull to the end of the leash and easily slip out of a collar or harness – even if he has never done that before. You’d be surprised what a panicked dog can do.

Do not leave your dog outside in the yard, or even let him out for a potty break, during the fireworks display. Fireworks can make a dog do super-canine things, like jump a high fence that he has never jumped before.

Dogs that get loose during a fireworks display will flee. They don’t know where they are going, they just run. Loose dogs get hit by cars, or run several miles away before they stop or are picked up by someone – hopefully by someone who is kind enough to try to find the owner.

To be safe, keep your dog indoors during the 4th of July, especially after dusk. Just before the fireworks start or before you leave to go see them, give him something he really loves, like a juicy knucklebone. You don’t have to coddle him during the fireworks (and you’ll probably be outside or away from home watching them anyway).

Don’t coddle your dog when he’s afraid of something that he doesn’t need to fear, like fireworks or thunder. The rule is that if you are afraid, it’s OK for him to be afraid, and it’s OK to comfort him. If aliens descended in flying saucers and started zipping over your house making loud sounds that terrify you, by all means, coddle your dog. If you coddle your dog when there’s no genuine danger, he will feel that you are also afraid of the noises and that will justify and reinforce his fear.

During the day on the 4th, it’s a good idea to give your dog a marathon walk, or a very long dog park session, to make sure that he’s good and tired before the night’s festivities begin.

Certainly, not every dog panics over loud noises, but why take the chance of losing your dog? Your town’s fireworks display lasts about an hour, but people start setting off firecrackers and their own fireworks as dusk descends, and then continue into the wee hours. Please, keep your dog inside and safe so that he can’t get away from you. If you’re having a party and people will come in and out of your home, crate your dog or put him into a back room with snacks, and then put a sign on the door that no one is to open it.

One product that may help to alleviate your dog’s firework fears is the Thundershirt, which I’m going to be using for the first time with my dogs this year. The Thundershirt is a stretchy garment that places even pressure on your dog’s body, which is supposed to relieve anxiety. Their studies show that over 80% of dogs do get relief from the Thundershirt. Pearl and Zoey will have their Thundershirts on starting at dusk on the 4th. We’ll just tell everyone that it’s the new chic style.

Just in case your dog does get lost, please have an ID tag on him at all times. If your dog wears both a collar and a harness, put a tag on both. During the 4th, it’s a good idea to put an extra collar and ID tag on to your dog (yes, he’ll be wearing two collars), along with a harness and ID. Dogs slip out of collars and harnesses, so it doesn’t hurt to have extra gear.

If your dog does get lost, call your local shelters immediately. The shelters are inundated with dogs and calls after the 4th of July – they know what to expect. Put up signs immediately as well, and drive around the neighborhood calling for your dog. Hopefully the holiday spirit will prompt people who find lost dogs to try to find their owners.

May you and your family – both human and canine – have a happy and safe 4th. And don’t give Fido too many hotdogs!

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