It's no secret most dogs hate fireworks and thunderstorms, the latter of which our four-legged friends can usually sense coming on way before we can.
But on Independence Day and New Year's Eve, most people would agree a little prep work on our part to ease their anxiety is the least we humans can do to repay them for... well, just being themselves the other 363 days of the year.
Whether you live in a rural area where the whole sky may be rumbling, or in the heart of town where the constant pop of firecrackers is still inevitable, we all know Uncle Sam's unstoppable bombast is coming Sunday, and since dogs aren't traditionally good with calendars, we spoke with local veterinarian Dr. Gary Hodges about some ways you can get them ready for the loudest night of the year not caused by nature.
“Try to get the dog feeling secure as early as you can,” Hodges said.
First and foremost, bring them inside
It may seem obvious, but even dogs who are used to being outside most of the time aren't going to be used to the cacophony of the Fourth.
According to PetAmberAlert.com, animal control officials report about a 30% increase in lost pets from July 4-6 each year.
Extreme stress and panic can force dogs to do things like chew through wood and dig under fences that normal curiosity and excitement just doesn't provide for.
A little daytime exercise can help
Weather permitting, you may want to get them outside Sunday afternoon. A longer-than-normal walk or run, or a few extra throws of the tennis ball wouldn't be a bad idea.
Be sure they have a safe space
“If you’ve got a room that has blackout drapes it helps tremendously, because you eliminate not only a lot of the outside noise, but you eliminate the stimulus from the flashing of fireworks or the lightning that occurs with a thunderstorm,” Hodges said.
Have some “normal noise” going on inside the house
Dogs aren't looking for complete silence. If normal life isn't going on inside the house, the quiet indoors can amplify what's going on outside. The TV or stereo can drown out, or at least lessen the exterior clamor.
Be there for them
It may be tempting to think your dog wants to be left alone and hide, but Dr. Hodges said most dogs need you to be right there with them.
“Most of them who are really having difficulty, they want to have contact with someone. They want to be petted, they want to be held if they're small enough. I think they like that security, and I don't know if this goes back even to dogs being so closely related to wolves. When they become afraid of things, they need the pack to help them feel secure. Maybe that's why they like to be in contact with people, because people have become their pack.”
Anti-anxiety medication is available (For your dogs, too)
Meds can be an effective tool, but it's something you may need to fine-tune with your vet.
“That’s something we deal with all the time. Whether it is Trazadone, whether it is or a form of Prozac, whether it is tranquilizers. It’s like anything else. It works on some it doesn’t work on others,” Hodges said. “If you feel your dog will need some type of medication, be sure and get it from your veterinarian ahead of time. We even suggest giving it to them a few days out, just to see how that individual is going to do. Is he going to be fine for the prescribed dose for the bodyweight or is he going to need a little more or a little less? This is something you and your veterinarian can discuss on each individual patient.”
Overall, Dr. Hodges says planning ahead is key.
"The biggest thing is trying to get these things started prior to the dog getting so keyed up from the environment outside. Try to have them settled down before everything starts bothering them."