• Melissa Henchen

Summer Safety Series: Fireworks

Like clockwork, I'm already seeing informational posters, emails, and posts like the one I'm going to write. Vet's offices, rescues, shelters, and every other dog-related organization you can think of is trying to get the word out about fireworks. I see it every year, and every year the slew of fireworks safety tips are followed by a slew of lost dog posts. Sometimes, all these channels feel like a bunch of dog-savvy people sharing things we all already know, and the information never gets to Grandma Jane, who just got a puppy after 15 years of not having a dog and doesn't even think dogs can have anxiety. With that in mind, I would challenge you to not just share this post on social media, but to share this information face-to-face. Addressing these topics directly — especially if you feel the person should already know better — can be inconvenient, but if you've got the guts and you've got the time, it's the biggest way to make difference.

It's not wrong for you dog to be afraid

Let's just get that out of the way right now. Your dog is not abnormal, defective, a wuss, a baby, or anything but a pretty normal dog for being afraid of fireworks. It doesn't matter if your last dog wasn't afraid, it doesn't matter if your neighbor's dog isn't afraid, it doesn't matter if that fear doesn't extend to things you perceive as similar, like thunder or loud traffic. The tips included in this post are meant to ease your dog's stress for their own health and happiness, not to make them "get over it" because we humans think it's irrational.

Don't bring your dog to the fireworks show

Just. Don't. Your dog does not enjoy it. They may have tolerated it in the past, but I can personally guarantee your dog is not looking up in the sky thinking, "Look at all the pretty colors!" It's much safer to leave them at home and follow these instructions...

1) Provide your dog with a covered crate or secure room.

2) Give your dog something pleasant to occupy them — a frozen filled Kong, some calm music, the TV, all of the above, etc.

3) Medicate if necessary/possible

It's not morally objectionable for your dog to need medications or for you to provide them. If you know your dog struggles with anxiety during fireworks, talk to your vet. Maybe a natural supplement will be enough to take the edge off, but maybe not. Furthermore, if you're going to leave your dog home alone during fireworks, they must be secure. Dogs have snapped tie-outs, jumped fences, and broken screen doors and even glass to escape during fireworks.

Don't bring your dog to the fireworks show...

...but if, for some reason, you do, this is not the time to skimp on equipment. If you choose to take your dog to fireworks, they should be wearing a martingale collar, a well-fitting harness, and a solid, double-clip leash — leave the retractable at home, or better yet, just put it in the trash. There are no exceptions to this. I don't care how old, small, or calm your dog is; you need to be prepared for them to bolt, flail, drag backward, and jump. Avoid this entirely by leaving your dog at home.

Don't be afraid to comfort your dog

No matter what the internet says, comforting your dog when they're afraid does not "reinforce their fear." If you're home with your dog during fireworks, be compassionate. Some dogs may be too restless to cuddle, some may prefer to hide in the bathroom, but some may come to you for comfort. No matter what, your goal should be to make your dog as calm and happy as possible.

That's it for this week, so thanks for reading! Stay tuned for our next post in the Summer Safety series, "BBQ Management."

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