Flashback to July 4, 2009… I was visiting my mom in Chicago and had my three greyhounds with me. For the actual festivities I left my fur babies home with Grandma. She was happy to babysit while I was out with friends enjoying summer in the city. After a few hours, she sent me a text saying that my youngest, 2 year old Chloe was having a hard time with the loud noises. The texts began coming fast and furious and culminated with a picture of her hunkered down in the bathtub and shivering. I had no idea my little one had a phobia, and in fact it could very well have come about due to that trip. Her life as she knew it was turned upside down; she was in a “strange” place, she was being “attacked” by loud noises, and her momma was nowhere in sight. Poor thing! At this point I was too far away to come home and solve the problem so I gave my mom directions and hoped for the best. As the holiday approaches once again, I am reminded of the experience and will do everything I can to prevent the severity of it this year. I have done some research and this is what I’ve found out…
- Learn to recognize the early signs of fear in your pet. Some animals run and hide, others may stick to their owners like glue, and still others may become aggressive. If you notice your pet showing abnormal behaviors, especially during the loud noises of fireworks or thunder, pay attention. The earlier you catch the fear, the easier it is to change their mindset.
- Try to avoid bringing your pet to a new or different environment at the time of the fireworks. Allow them to stay where they feel the most comfortable and safe. If you can confine them to a smaller space, like a bedroom or their kennel, even better.
- Create an environment that “ignores” the loud noises. You can turn the stereo or TV up loud and close the windows/drapes. If they can’t hear or see the fireworks, the chances are better that they won’t be bothered.
- Act like it’s no big deal. Your pet will be looking to you when they don’t understand what the noises are. The main point here is to remain calm and continue “business as usual”. If you act differently, like pacing around the house worried they might get scared, that cues them to be afraid. Try to avoid this.
- Give them ample distractions to pass the time. Save a super yummy treat like a marrow bone or a filled Kong to give to them during the fireworks/thunderstorm. If they are rewarded they are certainly not thinking about scary things! Make sure it’s something that will take them a while to work on. The longer they are focused on what makes them happy, the less time they have to be afraid. It’s important to remember that timing is everything when it comes to the treat. It’s best to give it to them right before the noises start. If you wait until they are in full-on fear mode, they probably won’t be able to eat anything. You can also use this time to freshen up on obedience and training. During an especially loud thunderstorm, I’ll run Chloe through her commands so that she has a different distraction. Of course she gets rewards for good behavior and we have the added benefit of extra bonding time! Make the most of distracting your pet, you can also play fetch or use the time to practice your pet massage skills!
- Make sure that your pet has all its identification tags on his collar. If micro-chipping is an option, I highly suggest this as an added backup measure in case he gets out of his collar somehow. If he gets frantic, his actions become unpredictable. Make sure you are covered for any situation that might arise. Do NOT leave your pet unattended in a car, a backyard (whether fenced in or not), or tethered to a stake.
Keep your pets safe this 4th of July by following a few easy steps and planning ahead. For the health of your pet and for your own peace of mind, you’ll be glad you did. Have a fabulous 4th of July!
Chloe at the Greyhound Gathering, Kanab Utah, May 2010
Chloe and Susan at the Greyhound Gathering, Kanab Utah, May 2010