I was in Johns Creek last Tuesday working with a new Home Dog Training Client and his German Shorthaired Pointer named Otto. Otto had just turned one year old last week. One year old dogs are still puppies at heart, but their bodies are closer to “adult size”. Being a German Shorthaired Pointer, he was on the hyper side. Having the natural breeding of a hunting dog, he was outwardly focused and very aware of the world around him.
Otto’s two biggest problems were not listening and pulling on the leash. After a few hours of “think like a dog” education of my clients and a great deal of practical, hands-on training with Otto; things had vastly improved. My clients loved the results they had achieved, and Otto was actually paying attention to my clients and focusing on their commands.
As we were finishing up, my client asked me about the 4th of July. That was only a few days away and Otto had never been through all the things that can happen on that day. He was wandering if there was anything special, he should do to keep Otto safe and happy.
July 4th and Halloween are often the two most terrifying events for our dogs. On Halloween night, our dogs hear creepy sounds and see “bizarre animals” coming near or into our home. Potentially dangerous food (chocolate candy, etc.) is also left for them to easily sniff and gulp down. On the 4th of July, their world is thrown into turmoil with flashes and booms ten times louder than lightning storms. Many times, our dogs are left alone while we go out to the holiday events. On the other hand, we often will take them with us to the fireworks shows where they are placed right in the middle of the flashes, booms, and hordes of unknown and potentially provocative strangers. FYI; these are all bad things for our dog.
Our dogs look to us to be their care givers and safety providers. We are not doing our job it we put them in situations that could potentially scare, frighten, or hurt them. This devastates our dog’s sense of safety and can make them timid, fearful/aggressive, and possibly destructive. FYI again; these are all bad things for our dog.
How can we keep our dogs happy, safe, and secure on the 4th of July so they will still remain behaved and calm? Here are some tips that I shared with my client, and I would like to share with you now:
- It is a really bad idea to go to the July 4th fireworks show with your dog. Your dog’s hearing is far more sensitive than ours. As they are barking and attempting to escape the noise, they are probably in pain and extremely scared. This experience will drive them to be fearful to travel with you. This is because they will equate going out and about with you to fearful and possibly painful events.
- Even though I told you not to go to a 4th of July fireworks display, you go and do it. You think it will be fine because you will be leaving your dog in the car. This is really bad as well. It is often hot in July and the temperature in the car will rapidly climb. This will lead to your dog to quickly becoming overheated and dehydrated. Rolling down the windows to give your dog some air is a bad idea as well. They will become fearful of the fireworks, jump out the open window, and become lost. The open window will also act as an invitation to a “bad person” who may want to steal your dog.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended in the back yard. The loud noises and bright lights of the fireworks will encourage your dog to escape in search of a safe and calm location.
- Have a family member or friend be with your dog while the fireworks are taking place. Locate your dog in a quiet room away from noises. Close all the windows, shut the blinds, and draw the curtains. Close any doors and turn on the television to a channel of people talking. Increase his redirection by giving him one of his favorite play toys. Also, have him on a leash so that you can easily direct him back to you if he starts to become nervous.
- Don’t “overly comfort” your dog if he becomes nervous or misdirected. When you act “too wishy-washy” or like a “helicopter parent”, dogs often interpret this behavior as a sign of weakness. This is the time they are looking towards you for strength. Calm him in low tones and redirect him by walking him around the room on the leash or playing with him.
- If you are hosting a July 4th Barbeque, do not allow your guests to feed him from their plates. This tells him that it is ok to “beg for food”. Also, all that hot sauce and “barbeque” dishes might be poisonous to dogs.
- Even if he is secure in the house and can’t get out, your dog should still be wearing his collar and identification. “Life happens”, and he may get out. His identification will allow your neighbors or others in the vicinity to easily identify him and safely return him to you as soon as possible.
- We always encourage micro chipping your dog or getting him a GPS device for his collar. These simple solutions provide you and your dog an extra level of identification and safety.
- One more thing… Always watch your dog to see if he is exhibiting signs of anxiety or fearfulness. A tucked tail, cowering in the corner, nervous pacing, etc. are all signs that your dog “is not having a good day”. Help him through this time so that he can remain calm and happy. That is your responsibility.
Remember, we all love the 4th of July. Let’s make sure that our dogs love it as well.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.