July 2, 2015

Not-So-Happy 4th of July for Dogs.


I have the calmest dog in the world.

She’s a Norwegian Elkhound who came to live with me when she was a little over 2 years old; she’s 8 now. She recuperated from her rough beginning and has since become a loving and enthusiastic certified therapy dog.

We’re a team.

She loves everyone and everything and considers it her special job to greet everyone she sees with her trademark grin and a hearty wag of her extra-curly tail.

Every morning, I reach down and give her a belly rub after I wake up. Every evening, she attaches herself next to my knitting chair and stays there, snoring, until I go to bed.

She is rarely bothered by anything—with the exception of fireworks.

And she’s not alone.

Guess the busiest day of the year for animal shelters? Yep. July 5.

Very few of those lost dogs who flee in fear from fireworks will ever make it home again. Fewer than two percent of cats and only 15 to 20 percent of dogs are reunited with their families after such an escape. Aside from anything else, maybe microchipping your dog would help with its return, but how about some tips to just try to help them and keep them safe through this weekend of festivities?

So here’s what happens to Tippi (my dog) when fireworks are involved. It’s pretty textbook:

She starts panting.

She drools like crazy.

She licks her chops constantly.

She starts quivering.

She won’t look at a treat or food—and for a Norwegian Elkhound, that’s pretty unheard of!

We live in Illinois. In our area, fireworks are illegal. But that doesn’t stop many in our neighborhood.

Those that break the firework law don’t typically stop at the small stuff. There are M-80s and half-sticks going off long into the night.

No, calling the police doesn’t work. We live in a small town, so the cops will tell you that there’s nothing they can do.

Tippi’s daughter Quinn is the same way. Have you ever seen a 50-lb. dog try to wedge her way behind a toilet? It’s not pretty.

We know now that on firework-prone holidays, we have to shut the bathroom doors, place a barrier near my office desk (so she doesn’t get tangled in the wires underneath) and make sure we have a safe place for both of the dogs to hide. We don’t take our dogs to any fireworks displays. We keep them leashed outside at all times.

If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms noted above, please check with your vet before the season kicks in.

Also, don’t yell at your dog when he or she exhibits this behavior. He or she can’t help it. As a matter of fact, vets and trainers recommend that you act completely calm as well. If you don’t, your dog will pick up on your anger and figure that there’s probably a pretty good reason for her to feel anxious and stressed.

There are some handy tips here if you need some extra help with your dog during this season. It’s possible to desensitize a dog—sometimes. It’s worth a try, and it’s worth knowing that the effort has been made if the dog doesn’t respond. Perhaps some coping skills will have been learned that will help the animal through the next round of “celebrations.”

There are some things which help some dogs. Not all things help and not all dogs react the same way to each solution.

It’s been proven that some dogs react well to the use of a Thundershirt (a wrap much like swaddling a baby). Some react well to aromatherapy. Some are fine when they have a “safe” place where they can hide. Some need tranquilizers.

If your neighborhood is like mine (and sometimes July 4th celebrations actually start somewhere around the end of June), it can be harrowing. We’ve learned to anticipate the behavior. We have watched and listened to our furry kids.

Please remember: their sense of hearing is far more finely tuned than ours. They can hear the fireworks not only from a long way off, but they can hear them going off before we hear the boom.

I know this weekend will be one of celebration for many. For us? It’ll be a weekend of very little sleep. But to keep our girls calm, we’ll do what we can. Perhaps the tips on the referenced websites will help you with your dogs this weekend, as well.

Celebrate for sure, and make certain the four-legged members of your family survive the weekend safe and sound.



Relephant Reads:

American Ideals worth Honoring:

A Goodbye to a Dog’s Best Friend.

My Dog is my Mindfulness Guru.


Author: Pat Perrier

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Brandon/Flickr

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