Shel Silverstein wrote one of my very favorite books, The Giving Tree. If you are unfamiliar with the book, please put it on your reading list – a very short, thoughtful expose’ of life. Silverstein also wrote “The Fourth of July: Oh, crash! My bash! It’s bang! The Zang! Fourth Whoosh! Of Baroom! July Whew” enthusiastically portraying the Fourth of July from a human’s point of view. However, from a dog’s perspective, his poem “Mr. Grumpledump’s Song” probably more aptly describes how a dog feels about this celebration:

“Everything’s wrong. Day is too long. Sunshine’s too hot. Wind is too strong! Kids are too noisy! Folks are too happy, singin’ their songs. Why can’t they see it? Everything’s wrong.”

The Fourth of July is an exciting, fun holiday for humans, but unfortunately it holds a plethora of dangers to our four-legged pets, and can be a dangerous and frightening time for them. In addition to the risks of injuries and burns, many pets are fearful of the excitement and noise associated with the day. They may act irrationally and panic, and when in distress, pets can run incredibly long distances, lose their sense of direction, and end up far from home. According to Mypet.com, more dogs go missing on the 4th of July than on any other day of the year because of fireworks. The loud noises are scary and confusing, and even painful to some animals. NEVER leave pets outside, even in a fenced yard, and especially not on a chain. In their fear, pets that normally wouldn’t leave the yard may escape and be lost or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death. Thoughtless, “fun-loving” humans have been known to deliberately toss firecrackers at dogs, and even allowing your pets near fireworks can lead to serious burns, even after the fuse has burned out, and unused fireworks pose a danger to curious pets who like to chew.

A few tips to keep your dog safe and happy when those fireworks start lighting up the sky:

  •  Take your dog for a walk early in the day, before the festivities, and be sure to keep her on leash, because some people do set off fireworks before it gets dark.
  • Do NOT take your pet to fireworks displays even if you plan to stay in your car with him. The explosions that are loud to human ears are much louder to a dog, whose hearing is more sensitive than humans….certainly do not leave your dog unattended in a vehicle. Partially opened car windows do not provide sufficient air for your dog, and if he becomes frightened, he would likely become destructive
  • Plan ahead to keep your pet indoors in a quiet, sheltered spot. Keep the curtains closed, and leave the radio or television (or both) on to keep him company while you are enjoying the celebration. We have found a CD that is super for calming dogs….I have shelves filled with tapes and books on “how to cure behavior problems,” and most of them are what I consider “snake oil”, but once in a while I discover a real winner. I observed that some specific lullaby music, played to the rhythm of an actual human heartbeat, is being used in many hospitals, especially for newborns and preemies, which actually has a calming effect on the babies, and it is also effective with dogs. If you have a nervous or easily frightened dog, I recommend you go to www.caninelullabies.com , or call Terry toll free at 1-800-537-7748 for information on this CD that is effective not only for fireworks, but for other inappropriate behavior
  • A commercial product, the thundershirt, has been used with great success to calm anxious dogs. It was created by behavioral experts using a concept similar to swaddling an infant. The thundershirt is great in many stressful situations, and info on them can be found at thundershirt.com or on Amazon.
  • If you have neighbors or friends who normally keep their dog outdoors, please visit with them about the dangers involved. Perhaps they have not even thought about the distress that fireworks can cause the animals.
  • Make sure your pets are wearing complete updated ID…just in case. If someone finds your animal, the first thing to look for will be an ID tag. If he is taken to a shelter or pound, he will be scanned for a microchip.

Exercise caution, common sense, and compassion and keep your dogs away from the whooshes, barrooms, and bangs, while you enjoy a safe, festive Happy Fourth!