Wednesday, June 27, 2018

4th of July Madness!

Just got off the phone with one of my favorite clients.  She has a new puppy and she wanted to know how to prepare him for the 4th of July festivities.  There will be a big party at their house and a fireworks show.  This pup is a real trooper; he's already done several large gatherings at their home and been the star of the show!  He hasn't displayed any instances of noise sensitivity, so my assumption is that he will likely do okay with the fireworks.  We did review, however, what to do should he become anxious. Here are a few of the things we discussed:

1.  No coddling.  If your dog gets anxious, you coddling them will just reinforce the anxiety.  Be proactive--get them out of the situation as gracefully and confidently as possible.  They need to "cowboy up" and see that you aren't anxious; you will get them to safety without panicking.

2.  If you know your dog is noise sensitive, just assume that fireworks displays, even in the distance, will be too much for them.  Keep him indoors and use fans, TVs, stereos, etc. to help blot out the noise.  Close drapes and windows as well.  Your dog will likely still be able to hear the fireworks, but they will be greatly muted by these actions that you can take.

3.  If your dog is really panicky, get them into a bathroom.  Bathrooms tend to be very insulated from sounds.  Turn on the bathroom fan and sit with your dog if you like. Just remember not to reinforce the anxiety.  Bring a book and just hang out.

4.  Don't let your dog outside to go to the bathroom without wearing their collar, ID tags, and a leash.  If they panic and get away from you, you want that collar and tags on them so that you will be quickly contacted when they are found.  I've known more than one dog to panic and escape from their yard without ID on the 4th of July.

5.  While we only have one week left until the 4th, you can also try some desensitization exercises with your dog to prepare them.  Bring up the sound of fireworks on your computer or on the TV.  Start at a very low volume and gradually increase the volume, helping your dog to see that this is no big deal.  Keep in mind that real fireworks are about sound AND lights, so these exercises really only work on the sound component.

6.  You can certainly try a Thunder Shirt for your dog, although most people find that they have limited success with just using a Thunder Shirt by itself. You may need to speak with your veterinarian about an anti-anxiety medication just to get your dog through this holiday.  You will, however, want to stay away from any medication that makes your dog woozy; you will want to work with your vet to pick a drug that actually makes them tired so that they will sleep peacefully through the holiday.

7.  And finally, many people have had success giving their pets CBD based treats to reduce anxiety and promote calmness.  If you'd like to learn more about this holistic alternative, visit

Years ago, I had a Border Collie who seemed to enjoy fireworks.  I took her more than once to holiday festivities that included fireworks and she seemed to actually have a great time!  While I found this quite unusual, she was really just one of those dogs who would do pretty much anything if it meant doing it with me.  The two collies I have now are not huge fans of fireworks. They bark and patrol.  What's funny, however, is that Desi who is usually the most chill dog on the planet, is the one who seems most anxious about it. Ozzie who can hear a fly buzzing two rooms away and is a champion micromanager, is less anxious about fireworks overall, but does seem to feel that he needs to back Desi up in his vigilance.  Just one more reason to love collies. They always have each other's backs.

I hope that you and your family have a lovely 4th of July holiday.  As always, if you have questions about your pet's mental well-being, I am here for you.

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