The Fourth of July’s for the Dogs
BY MATTHEW “UNCLE MATTY” MARGOLIS
You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. — Erma Bombeck
I have a friend, a nervous type, and every time she hears a loud “POP!” or, worse, a loud “POP-POP-POP!” she has a mini-meltdown and rushes through the house securing windows and doors, having come to the foregone conclusion that someone has been gunned down at the foot of her drive and she is next.
Did I mention she lives in the country?
Always — so far at least — it’s a car backfiring or kids playing with fireworks.
And that brings me back to Erma — because Frisbee, potato salad and flies don’t hold a candle to good old-fashioned fireworks when it comes to patriotic displays in the U.S. of A. For most of us, fireworks are the ultimate expression of national pride. Whether or not we draw a connection between “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” and our much more delightful version of fire in the sky, the reality is that one kid’s delight is another woman’s terror.
Or another dog’s terror.
So here we are. It’s officially the summer of 2014. The Fourth of July is less than two weeks away. What’s the plan for the d-o-g?
If your dog is as delighted by fiery skies as he is by Grandpa’s brisket, great. Count your lucky stars and celebrate with some iffy potato salad — for you, not the pooch.
If your dog is apathetic about the whole shebang, even better. Independence Day is just another day.
If your dog is ambivalent or flat-out fearful of the snap-crackle-pop that goes on all day and into the night, then you need a plan.
That plan could be as simple as staying home with your dog. But many of us like to celebrate, and if your dog has a true phobia of loud noises, he’ll require more than just your presence to survive a lengthy display, particularly if you live near the action.
If your dog reacts to fireworks like deer to wolves, you might want to ask your veterinarian about prescribing a mild sedative to help him sleep. Some dogs react so strongly to loud noises that they literally harm themselves chewing through walls and fences trying to get away from them. This is dangerous not only in the potential injury to their jaws, but also in the possibility of getting hit by a car should they succeed in their attempt. In extreme cases, a mild sedative makes sense.
For most dogs who fear the Fourth’s festivities, a thoughtfully arranged crate or other comfortably secure and familiar area will go a long way to calming his anxiety. Close all of the windows and window coverings, and play some soothing music to drown out exterior noises. Make sure he has access to his favorite toys, cushion, and blanket. If you’re going to be around to supervise, give him something special to chew on. And if you’re going out, secure him in his crate or in the room you’ve made so comfortable.
It might be best to avoid walking an anxious dog on Independence Day, but exercise is a great weapon against anxiety. If you decide to forgo a walk, make sure you get in a good play session in the yard or in the house.
Above all, make sure your dog is chipped and is wearing ID tags that include your current contact information. You can be too full, but you can never be too safe.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to email@example.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
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