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Inquisitive Canine: Fourth of July Precautions for Pooches

July 2, 2009

Dear Inquisitive Dog Guardians:

It’s that time of year again when Americans enjoy celebrating their country’s independence with barbecues, alcohol and explosives. As a U.S.-born pooch, I enjoy many of the customs that are part of this festive holiday, such as spending time with friends and family and being surrounded by all of the delicious food. But as an inquisitive canine, I must ask: Why the explosives? I know this observance goes back to John Adams describing the “illuminations” in the sky to celebrate Independence Day, but fireworks can be quite frightening and dangerous (especially the do-it-yourself backyard variety).

In honor of this time of celebration, my mom, a certified professional dog trainer, and I thought it would be a good idea to send out gentle reminders on how to help keep us dogs safe.

  • Manage the environment: Remember, dogs are scavengers. If something is within reach (even if it means jumping up or climbing on tables to get it), it’s going to be investigated. Please keep any and all food items out of our reach. This includes closing the barbecue cover. Jumping up on a hot grill isn’t very smart, but some dogs haven’t learned that yet.
  • Food items: Although I have a rock-gut stomach, many dogs don’t. Please make sure you feed us our normal diet. And ask all of the other humans to refrain from giving us snacks — no matter how much we beg. Some foods aren’t good for dogs, and they might not know it. You can always post a reminder sign for everyone to see.
  • Lighter fluid, charcoal, matches and lighters: All of those items used for the barbecue are often placed in areas where dogs like to sniff around. Please be aware of where they are placed.
  • Alcoholic beverages: I once sniffed a beer that dad was drinking. Yuck! I don’t go near the stuff. But again, some dogs haven’t learned. Alcohol can be poisonous to dogs, so please keep all beverage containers (except our fresh water) out of our reach.
  • Candles, Tiki torches, oil lamps and other decorative products: These can be fun to investigate. Unfortunately, they can cause harm if they fall on us or we try to eat them, so again, if your dog is running around the house, keep these items in a safe place or put them away.
  • Fireworks: First and foremost, keep them away from us. Exposure can cause burns and other injuries. Plus, they’re very scary to most animals, including yours truly. Keep all pets inside your home, where it is safe. Sometimes the explosions scare us and we like to run away.
  • ID and License: Make sure your dog (and kitties, too) are wearing a collar with a license and ID tag. In case they take off, the authorities will have a better chance of finding you.
  • Create a fun time at home, or have a pet sitter: Leave your dog at home. Fireworks shows are fun for all of you humans, but for many of us dogs they’re too overwhelming. If you aren’t able to stay home with them, consider hiring a professional pet sitter or have a friend hang out and comfort your pets.
  • Medications: If the anxiety is too much for your dog or cat to handle, contact your veterinarian about the option of an anti-anxiety medication.
  • Phone numbers: Another step you’ll want to take is having phone numbers handy. If your dog or cat ingests something they shouldn’t have, you can contact the animal poison control center 24/7. You’ll also want to know in advance where the nearest 24-hour pet emergency clinic is and the fastest way to get there.

I’m not a pooch-party-pooper. Trust me, I love a barbecue more than most humans. But whatever you end up doing this weekend, please be sure to take extra precautions to secure the safety of your beloved pets — so you can enjoy celebrating more holidays together.

For answers to your questions about dog behavior, email us directly.

Joan Mayer and her sidekick, Poncho


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