The Fourth of July is usually filled with fun stuff for humans: hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, parades, the pool, the beach, and maybe some more beer.
But for dogs, the Fourth is filled with fireworks and fear.
Last night, when I sat down to write this Daily Spike blog post, I heard the first sounds of summer in the city. It’s the snap, crackle and pop, pop, pop of impromptu rooftop fireworks.
They’re coming from a building about 75 feet away, and they’re loud.
What do I hear next? The jingle jangle of Spike’s collar as he quickly bolts from the bedroom, where he was happily napping just a second ago, and flees to his crate in an effort to get away from the loud noises and take shelter in his safe spot.
Good thing my friends at Canine Companions for Independence suggested talking about the Fourth of July for this week’s blog post — we’ve got advice that all dog owners could use.
Canine Companions encourages their puppy raisers to expose them to a variety of experiences, sights and sounds, as they are important experiences that help prepare the dogs for their service. After all, when they're working as service animals, they will need to maintain focus through all distractions.
Part of this is ensuring that a puppy won't develop a negative association with certain sounds, and the celebrations of the Fourth of July present some challenges, what with all the flashing and exploding fireworks, booming music, large crowds, loud voices and laughter.
It is important for any dog owner to anticipate these stresses of the holiday and plan ahead. Here are a few tips:
- Give the dog a lot of exercise during the day, before the evening festivities. A tired dog will be less likely to react to noise stimulation once the fireworks get started.
- Don’t let the dog roam free in your yard, even if you have a secure fence. The surprise of sudden sounds or fireworks can stimulate the “fight or flight” response, which can result in a panicked puppy scaling a tall fence. When walking a dog outside, use a leash to prevent it from bolting suddenly in response to loud noises.
- Skip the celebration and stay home with the dog. Keep them occupied with toys and play, so they will have positive interactions and be distracted from the sounds of the fireworks.
- Keep the dog inside when there are loud noises or fireworks. Set up their crate in a room that is the most insulated from sound. The crate can be covered with a blanket, and a TV or radio can be played to drown out the thundering noises. If your neighborhood is really noisy, consider taking the puppy to spend the night with friends or family who live in a quieter area.
Keep in mind that a dog can develop sound sensitivity, but not show it for several months. Do not risk exposing a puppy to fireworks, even if they don’t seem to be stressed by the flashes and noise. Canine Companions dogs may show stress in a variety of active ways, including bolting or quivering, as well as passive ways such as yawning, lip-licking and sleeping.
Spike and I hope you have a safe and happy holiday celebration! And we hope you will help make every day Independence Day for people with disabilities in our country.
For more information about Canine Companions for Independence and how you can #GiveADogAJob, visit cci.org.