I know what you’re thinking: the fourth of July is just a distant memory of hot dogs, flags, and fireworks that is fading thanks to the onset of fall. But the real idea here is to find ways to keep your poochy pal calm during any celebration. Independence Day happens to be one of the most stressful for pets, what with a house full of strangers, tons of fragrant food that they can’t have, and the loud percussion of fireworks going off throughout the day and night. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only holiday that can cause your pets to become agitated. And with Halloween bringing a barrage of kids in costume ringing your doorbell, and Thanksgiving and the winter holidays rife with rich foods and family gatherings, it’s not a bad time to start thinking about ways to make your best friend comfortable and calm during the festivities. So here are just a few 4th of July tips and tricks that apply year-round.
1. Crate training. Many people train puppies to be comfortable with crates from a young age for a couple of reasons. One is that you may have to confine your pooch for a period of time, until he has been trained to live in your house without using the floor as a toilet and turning every stick of furniture into a chew toy. Another is that at some point you will have to get your dog to a vet, which entails traveling in a carrier. And finally, most dogs feel more comfortable and safe in a “den” of some sort. It is this last reason that will serve you well when it comes to celebrations that entail loud noises and lots of guests.
2. Command training. Putting your dog through the paces of command training is a good idea all around. After all, you want him to sit, stay, and heel when you tell him to. When you neglect to put in the time and effort required to train your puppy you will end up with a willful dog that you simply can’t control. On the other hand, a well-trained dog should listen to you even when he’s frightened. So if you don’t like the idea of locking your dog up or filling him to the gills with sedatives, proper training could provide you with the solution you’re seeking.
3. Wrapping. You may be aware that this tactic works for babies (swaddling them properly will often result in a calming effect), and the same basic principle applies to nervous animals. But wrapping your dog in a blanket might not have the desired effect. What is needed, according to experts, is constant pressure on the nervous system. And the Thundershirt (thundershirt.com) does just that. If all it takes is 40 bucks to keep your dog calm, it’s money well spent.
4. Exercise. While you may not be able to predict thunderstorms, you know when a holiday event is happening well ahead of time. So make sure to schedule in some strenuous exercise for your pet beforehand, either with a trip to the dog park or a jog around the neighborhood, for example. This should help to tire him out so that the excitement of the holiday doesn’t have such a dramatic effect on his nerves.
5. Medication. For most pet owners this is a last resort. However, for the dog that seems to have an incurable case of fright when it comes to loud noises like fireworks, thunder, or the vacuum cleaner, this may be kinder than letting him suffer. Your vet can offer advice on what to give him, although often a low dose of Benadryl will do the trick. However, there are also targeted sedatives and even herbal remedies that can lull your dog into a gentle slumber for the duration. Again, this strategy is not one that you should settle on lightly since it could leave your dog disoriented or ill, so make sure to talk to your vet about the best course of action rather than moving ahead with medication on your own.