Cesar’s Tips: Fourth of July
More dogs run away on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year. The sounds of fireworks – the artificial squeal followed by the giant burst of explosives and subsequent whimper – drives dogs nuts! And for many, it triggers their innate flight instinct.
Many people equate the sights and sounds of Independence Day fireworks with the trauma that dogs can experience in thunderstorms. But there’s a difference. For one, thunderstorms are Mother Nature. Two, fireworks are closer to the ground and more vibrant. And three, dogs are not prepared for the sudden booms and flashes and burnt aromas that come with what is one of many Americans’ favorite holidays. Remember, dogs experience the world through their senses – nose, eyes, ears.
So what do you do? Do you take your dog to the fireworks with you? Do you leave him home alone? Can you prepare him for this?
My suggestion is to take your dog away from areas where there will be a fireworks display nearby. Take them to your parents, grandparents, brother’s or sister’s house, or to a day care center they are familiar with and comfortable at. Plan ahead — if you are taking them to a new place they haven’t been, expose them to the home or center in the days and weeks before the holiday, so when you take them for the Fourth, it’s not a surprise and for them, it’s just like any other day of the year.
Don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on a great, fun time. That’s human guilt and trust me, the dog won’t know what he’s missing. You’re being a good pack leader by not exposing him to a situation that will trigger his flight instinct in a negative way.
If you leave the dog at home, you can do so in a travel kennel. Make sure there is someone who can let him out to relieve himself every four hours and provide a little companionship until you’re home. Please do not leave your dog in the kennel full of physical energy. Without a doubt, give him the longest walk of his life before you leave. A tired dog equals a happy owner.
Some dogs can deal with the sights and sounds of fireworks if they’ve been desensitized, like hunting dogs for example, who are familiar with the sounds and smells of gunshots and gunpowder. But for most people, they cannot prepare a dog for this.
You can try to play sounds for your dog that simulates fireworks before he eats, before a walk, before affection and play, and condition him to hear the sound and interpret it as something good. But keep in mind, the soundtrack cannot replace the actual power of real fireworks. If you must have your dog near fireworks, then make sure he is properly leashed and close to you, so you don’t become one of the devastating statistics.