I remember when I was very young, going to Echo Park every 4th of July for the fireworks show. I also recall hiding under my pink blanket, tensing up, whimpering a little, all out of fear. My parents were very cautious, keeping me and my brother safe. But it didn’t matter. I guess the sound of the explosives, the crowd, and all the smoke were way too much for me.
As I got older I certainly understood the whole concept of the celebration of this festive summertime holiday, but it doesn’t mean I’m any less fearful. I’ve been known to enjoy watching the various shows from afar…but I’ll be honest, I still get a little twinge of discomfort whenever I hear the loud explosions. Maybe it’s because these “bombs” can cause damage and harm to humans, non-human animals, and the environment.
Okay, my intention isn’t to be a party-pooper…I’m looking forward to celebrating as well…spending time with friends and whatnot. But, as a certified professional dog trainer and dedicated dog mom to Ringo Starr, it’s my priority to keep him safe and out of harm’s way.
I’m sure you’re planning on protecting your pets as well, but I’d like to pass along a few safety tips for keeping dogs (and kitties) safe this holiday:
Manage your environment!
If you’re having a party or going to be bringing your dog to a party, it might be best to have them confined to a specific out-of-harms-way area with proper enrichment such as chew bones or a stuffed food toy, or tethered to you with a leash. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If something is within reach (including 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 barbeque cover. Jumping up on a hot grill isn’t very smart, but some dogs haven’t learned that yet – like when kids touch a hot stove.
Although some dogs have a rock-gut stomach, many others do not. Please make sure you stick with your dog’s regular diet. And, ask all of the other humans to refrain from handing out snacks, no matter how much your dog tries to “work the room.” Some foods aren’t good for dogs and they might not know it. You can always post a reminder sign in plain view for everyone to see.
Lighter fluid, charcoal, matches, lighters: All of these items used for the barbeque are often placed in areas where many dogs like to sniff around. Please be aware of where they are placed, and to keep them out of reach.
Alcohol can be poisonous to dogs so please keep all beverage container, except a bowl of fresh water, out of reach.
Candles, tiki torches, oil lamps, and other decorative products like this can be fun to investigate. Unfortunately, they can cause problems if they get knocked over, fall on top of the dog, or are ingested. So again, if your dog is running around the house, keep these items in a safe place or put away altogether.
First and foremost, keep them away from all pets! Exposure can cause burns and other injuries. Plus they’re very scary to most animals. To play it safe:
- Keep all pets inside: explosions, weird sites, and smells can be scary and can result in dogs wanting to run away and escape.
- ID and License span: make sure your dog (and kitties too) are wearing a collar with license and ID tag. Just in case they take off, the authorities will have a better chance of returning them to you.
- Stay home or have a pet sitter: Leave your dog at home. Fireworks shows are fun for humans, but for many 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 come over to 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 various medication options for helping to reduce noise phobia anxiety.
Another step you’ll want to take is having phone numbers and other contact information handy.
- Animal Poison Control: if your dog or cat ingests something they shouldn’t have, you can contact the animal poison control center 24/7
- Pet Emergency Clinic: Know in advance where the nearest 24-hour pet emergency clinic is and the fastest way to get there. This is something I was reminded of in the Pet First Aid & CPR course I just took with Denise Fleck. The day that we had to rush our former dog Poncho to the pet emergency clinic, we had to think very hard of how the best way to get there was. The clinic had recently relocated, and we ended up going the wrong way – this was our own fault for not planning ahead! (This was pre-Google Maps and Waze). It’s also doubly important if you are traveling with your dog and are unfamiliar with the area you’re in.
I’m not a party-pooper. Trust me, I love a barbeque and a party as much as anyone. But whatever you end up doing this 4th of July, please make sure you take those extra steps in keeping your pets safe so you can enjoy celebrating more holidays together!