Dogs and Fireworks

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It’s that time of year again amid a sea of red, white, and blue when Americans get together with friends and family, cook hamburgers and hotdogs, and see who can spit watermelon seeds the farthest.  Then after dark the sky lights up with a myriad of shapes and a burst of colors as the “oohs” and “ahs” of spectators rise to fill in the audio gaps between the fireworks.

It’s also the busiest time of year for animal control, pounds, and rescue groups.  More animals go missing this time of year than any other because of the noise associated with fireworks.

My 6-year-old yellow Lab hates the noise.  In fact, someone set off a single firecracker the other night near my home in Roanoke and Zippy tried to jump into my lap.  I was working at the computer at the time.  His increasing hatred of the noise is probably because over the past several years, neighbors across the street have taken to setting off bottle rockets in their pyrotechnic display that burst directly over my house, shaking its foundation-and my patience.

I admit I get very agitated by their idea of having fun which just affects Zippy even more.  Last year, after the noise was over, my black Lab, Hokie, went outside to potty for the night.  (Zippy wouldn’t set paw outside because we could hear surrounding Rocky Mount, Vinton, Salem, and other communities still setting off their displays.)  Hokie brought something back inside to me after going to the bathroom.  I took it from her and quickly determined it was part of a shell that had landed in our back yard.  I was glad she brought it to me and didn’t decide to make it a late night snack.

There are some products on the market which claim to help reduce or eliminate the fear dogs have toward fireworks and/or thunderstorms.

Thundershirts have been on the market for several years now.  They act on the “hugging” principle talked about by Temple Grandin, where the dog (or cat) feels calmer when it’s being wrapped or hugged.  They can be purchased online or in some of the more popular national chain dog stores.

Positive dog trainer and animal advocate Victoria Stilwell sells a cd for fireworks and one for thunderstorms as part of her Canine Noise Phobia series.  Special calming music plays, while the stimulus-fireworks or thunderstorms-is added at gradually increasing levels.

And if you’re into essential oils, Earth Heart has some calming oils for dogs.  You can rub a few drops on the insides of his ear flaps or spray a little into a bandana for him to wear around his neck.

I saw an ad on Facebook the other day for Thunder Chews.  The website has a couple of testimonials and I couldn’t access the FAQ page.  I would advise checking with your vet before giving your dog pseudo-medication.

But whatever you do, make sure your dog has a microchip with up-to-date information in case he gets out.  If you’re headed outside, keep him on a leash.  And it goes without saying that if you’re going to a fireworks display, leave your dog at home where he can cuddle up in his bed or crate with a nice big bone or a Kong filled with treats, kibble, and peanut butter and then frozen so he’ll keep busy getting the treats out of the toy.

If you’re lucky, the noise and fear it creates will last only one night.  And then there are 364 days until it happens again.

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