The Fourth of July is an exciting holiday where family and friends gather to celebrate the day our country declared independence from Great Britain. It’s usually a day spent outdoors enjoying family fun in the summer weather in your back yard or even on the lake. You don’t want to leave your beloved pets out of the celebration; they would enjoy the fun and games, too. But maybe you should.
Our canine companions enjoy every outing we take them on. For all they know, everyday is Independence Day! So on this one day, and maybe even the day after the fourth, just decide to make it the most pleasant that you can for your dog and give them a place in the house where they feel safe to enjoy the holiday.
Dogs experience the world differently than we do. We share the same five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) but dogs perceive the world differently with these senses.
- While a dog’s brain is just one-tenth the size of a humans, the part that controls smell is 40 times larger. They have about 20 times the amount of smell receptors than humans. According to Alexandra Horowitz in her book Inside of a Dog, while we might notice if our coffee has a teaspoon of sugar in it, a dog can detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth. Can you imagine what fireworks smell like to them?
- Dogs have much better low light vision than humans, but their overall vision is only about 20/75 compared to our 20/20. This means dogs don’t see well at a distance. They are, however, more sensitive to light and motion and many times will see things in the distance before humans. They see shapes, and shades of color, but cannot determine what the objects are in the distance. Can you imagine what fireworks look like to them?
- Many dogs are fearful of thunderstorms and they know when they’re coming. Dogs can feel the barometric pressure change and it gives them a warning that a storm is coming. Without a pressure change like thunderstorms, the explosive sounds and frightening sights of fireworks suddenly appear out of no where and can cause a rush of adrenaline, increase in stress hormones, and an increased heart rate in your dog. Can you imagine how fireworks make them feel?
- Some dogs are much more sensitive to sound than others. This usually has something to do with how well the dog was socialized as a puppy. Regardless of this, all dogs hear the world differently than humans. A dog can hear much higher frequencies and at somewhat greater distances than humans (although the hearing at a greater distance is currently up for debate). The construction of their ears allows them to move them to better absorb a sound and determine what it is and where it’s coming from. Dogs then rely on their other senses to decide whether the sound is ok, or if they can’t make that determination, they go into fight or flight mode. Can you imagine what fireworks sound like to them?
- Taste, obviously, doesn’t apply here. Unless you choose to keep your dog inside during the holiday and give them a tasty Made in the U.S.A. treat to enjoy as their Fourth of July celebration!
Many dogs aren’t afraid of fireworks and you can work to help your new puppy never develop this fear through socialization to sound. You can even work with an older dog to help them learn to cope with their fear in a more effective way, but that process takes months and months. You shouldn’t put them in the situation for them to be afraid and try to cope until you have worked extensively with them. You can start work on July 5th for New Years Eve fireworks, but don’t start by throwing them out in the yard under a loud fireworks display.
There are many products that can help your dog cope with the loud holiday. One of my favorites is the Thundershirt. This shirt wraps around your dog tightly and basically swaddles them like you would a newborn. Humans and canines alike benefit from being held and hugged. Experts believe pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system by releasing calming hormones called endorphins.
Other products include calming sprays called D.A.P. spray, calming treats and tablets, and even room atomizers that are like air fresheners that you just plug into an outlet. D.A.P., dog appeasing pheromone, is a spray that helps alleviate anxiety in dogs during travel, storms, noisy events, confinement, and other situations that cause stress to your dog. Lactating mammals release substances call appeasing pheromones that function to reassure their offspring. D.A.P. spray works in a similar way to reassure your dog that they are safe. You can get the sprays as room atomizers and simply plug them into the wall, or as sprays you can spray directly on the dog or their Thundershirt.
Calming treats and tablets include ingredients known to soothe dogs and humans such as chamomile, passion flower, and tryptophan. Dogs generally love to eat their treat or chewable tablet and never know they’re getting a dose of chill out!
Like I said before, it’s always best to leave your dog in a place they feel safe in your home. According to petamberalert.com, more dogs go missing on July 4 and the following days than any other day of the year. Why would you even risk it?
If your dog enjoys relaxing in their crate put their crate in the room furthest from the noise of the fireworks and give them a nice toy or treat to enjoy while they chill out in their “den” for awhile. If they don’t spend time in a crate but have a comfy bed in your bedroom, send them to their bed, give them a treat or toy, and shut your bedroom door. Turning the TV on for some distracting noise can help, too.
Don’t forget about your pooch. Go check on them regularly but remember to act normal. You can pet them, for sure, as petting is one of the most therapeutic things for a dog, but don’t coddle them or go overboard if they are showing fear. This will only justify their fear.
One other thing to note about the holiday is that it’s HOT. Remember that you dog will need a lot of water and frequent breaks in the shade or the house. Heat exhaustion is REAL and it will kill your dog. It’s a super scary thing that I hope no one ever experiences, but unfortunately it happens all the time and can happen to your dog before you know it. Know the warning signs and do everything you can to prevent it from happening to your dog!
Remember, your dog doesn’t know what they’re missing out on. Don’t feel bad that they’re inside while you’re outside enjoying the show. They don’t need to be a part of your fireworks celebration. They will enjoy celebrating in the safety of their bed or crate.
Happy Fourth of July!!!