As humans, we celebrate the Fourth of July with gatherings, fireworks and other activities. However, just because your guide dog is well-trained, some of these events might be stressful for your guide. How does your guide dog respond to fireworks? Do they exhibit signs of fear and anxiety?
Some signs to watch for include trembling and shaking, restlessness and pacing, hiding, destroying objects and excessive barking. Stressed guides and pets might also demand extra attention, attempt to escape or try to avoid going outdoors after hearing a noise.
If your guide dog does show some, or most of these signs, how to protect your dog on the 4th of July? Contact your neighbors to find out when they are going to host these parties. Find a YouTube video with fireworks. Start playing the video very quietly before slowly increasing the volume. Purchase a plug-in diffuser that releases pheromones. Plug this diffuser in a few days before the event. Pheromones mimic cat and dog scents that calm your dog. You can purchase these products as sprays, diffusers and collars.
Another way on how to protect your dog on the 4th of July is by taking your dog for a long walk on the night of the fireworks to tire him out. Feed him earlier than usual so he can relieve himself before the noises begin. Establish a special area for him when he gets scared. If you crate him, use a blanket to aid in masking the sounds. In case he does escape, be sure his microchip and tags are up-to-date.
To diminish the sound of the fireworks, turn on a radio or television. You might also try distracting them by playing or offering a treat. If pheromones don’t help, and you don’t wish to medicate your dog, try using a thunder shirt. According to the manufacturer, swaddling your animal’s torso in the thunder shirt releases hormones like oxytocin or endorphins that make your dog feel like they’re receiving a hug.
One way on how to protect your dog on the 4th of July is by simply leaving them home. Take your cane or use a sighted guide to assist you if you want to attend a fireworks display. If you’re hosting a party, make guests aware of your dog, make sure your pooch avoids the hot grill, alcoholic beverages and kabob skewers. All three can be dangerous for your dog.
If you do travel with your guide dog during this holiday, be aware of your dog’s mood. If your dog does become anxious, ask the host if you could go to a quiet place until he calms down.
What should you do after the fireworks have ended? Let your dog leave its safe area only when it feels ready. Some dogs don’t immediately bounce back after experiencing a traumatic event. They need extra care and looking after to allow them to return to their happy, normal selves. Act as though the completion of the loud noises is nothing to worry over. Don't praise the dog for being afraid or for coming out of their safe place. On the other hand, if your dog appears anxious to head outdoors, use treats to re-establish a positive association with walking and being outside.
Most guide dogs receive training in many environments so they can safely guide their owners in all situations. As a guide dog user, remember every dog is different. Some dogs will be fine during fireworks and other events, while others might need some extra help from you. We know many July 4 celebrations will look different this year, but we hope these tips will help you enjoy your Fourth of July with your furry companion.