I love almost everything about Independence Day.
Almost. I literally tear up every time I see, read about or hear about how rattled dogs become at this time of year.
Some of it is straight out nervousness or fear – Dogs in general are very sensitive to sound and in general love routine. This holiday is VERY loud and in Omaha follows an already loud storm season filled with pressure changes to which dogs are also very sensitive. The loudness of fireworks is also unpredictable and random – which adds to the scariness for dogs.
Thank you Omaha for making the terrifying portion of the celebration legally longer than one day. Think of the dogs when you pass legislation!!
Cats too become frightened – and much of this might apply to them, so take what you need and apply it to your poor scaredy cat too. However, cats have been practicing all year for this time – if you have set up your home to be cat friendly – and I know you have – each cat has at least one high perch and one low hiding place to which to retreat if need be.
So that is noise fear. Annoying, but manageable, yes?
Some dogs have noise phobia. This is different. Or maybe not. It is more extreme. It is the difference between someone preferring not to be around crowds or high in the air or ___ and a full blown shutting down crowd or height or ___ phobia.
Some dogs are not affected at all by the loud noises of storms and fireworks. If that is your dog, now is the time to be thankful! Some dogs – maybe most – are on a scale between unaffected and phobic – somewhat fearful of the noises associated with the holiday.
For those of you with dogs who ARE fearful this time of year, remember…
You cannot ignore or scold your dog out of a phobia or use a phobic state as a training time or reason a dog out of a full on panic…You CAN and SHOULD love and comfort your dog through a hard time.
You cannot start training, Thundershirts, music and medications on July 1 and expect them to be 100% effective…You CAN and SHOULD do all of these things anyways – at least the ones that seem to help.
Use the upcoming year to learn as much as you can so that next year storm season and Independence Day will at the worst be tolerable, and at best be boring or even enjoyable for you and your dogs.
You may already KNOW all the things, and it is just as good as it is going to be for your dog. Think how hard it would be if he or she did NOT have you! You are doing a good job, and being near you and having you help them through firework season IS comforting.
Do not feel bad if you have not spent the past two months preparing for this week! Dogs with phobias are often completely normal between episodes. Often dogs with noise phobias have no panic attacks between July and July, thank goodness.
Here are some things that I hope will help NOW. Feel free to add to the list!
Anti-anxiety medication – Call your vet and ask if this may be helpful for your pet.
DAP Spray – a calming pheromone spray for dogs – similar to Feliway for cats
Calming music – I love Through a Dog’s Ear – Here is a free download from their website!
A quiet, safe, maybe dark place – a kennel, a small room, a comforting and familiar rug
Above all, keep your dog INSIDE or on a leash – July 4 is the number one day of the year for losing dogs.
Doggy ear muffs – Oh yeah, someone makes them.
Puzzles, Kongs, toys
Here are links to things I have written before…with links to things OTHER PEOPLE have written before!
You know, there is nothing new under the sun…except when there is. What I have learned this year that I did not know before is that using the month or two BEFORE you need a Thundershirt to work with your dog to associate it with happy times – called “coupling” – will make it tons more likely to be helpful, especially long term. Thank you for that information Dr. Stokes! I promise to remember that next May!
Thank you so much to friends Alicia Weiland and Janelle Van Riesen for letting me use these pictures of your beautiful pups!
Happy Fourth Everyone! Let me know how all your brave and hoping-to-be-brave pets do!
Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats never struggled with phobias. They were not so much brave as oblivious to anything that was not edible or a toy.