We're so proud of our SpotOn Trainer Rick Alto! His article How to Keep Dogs Happy, Safe, and Calm During the Fourth of July was featured in Cape Cod Today. You can find the full text of the article below!
How to Keep Dogs Happy, Safe and Calm During Fourth of July
As a Brewster resident, I have seen first-hand how busy the Cape gets with friends and family during the Fourth of July and realized that many summer visitors bring their furry friends along with them to avoid boarding their dogs in overpriced and crowded kennels during the holiday weekend. As a trainer and dog owner myself, I find it important for those planning to host a party or travel with their dog for the holiday should be well-informed about potential stressors.
There are many reasons why dogs can become overwhelmed and irritable during the Fourth of July. For one, dogs are typically happiest when they follow a routine and their owners keep that structure. When traveling, being surrounded by new people and becoming accustomed to a new environment, a dog’s normal routine is disrupted which can trigger stress and anxiety. Secondly, in most cases, fireworks are present during Fourth of July and, according to an Applied Animal Behaviour Science study, 45 percent of dogs show fear towards fireworks. Fearful reactions include trembling, shaking, hiding, seeking comfort, destruction, urination and salivation – all experiences that no owner would want to put their dog through.
With this in mind, understanding why dogs are under stress during the Fourth of July plays a key part in knowing the best ways to take care of them. It is no surprise that dog owners will go above and beyond to make their furry friends feel loved and comfortable during a scary experience like the Fourth of July. According to a recent survey conducted by SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence, the first and only dog containment and tracking system that allows dog owners to take their dogs and virtual smart fence wherever they go, 98 percent of dog owners consider their dogs to be members of the family. Here are some tips and recommendations to keep dogs safe on the Cape:
- Identify warning signs: Being mindful of signs that a dog is afraid of the sound of fireworks, or is overwhelmed at a backyard barbeque, is crucial. Common warning signs often include panting, pulled back ears, a tucked tail and panting. Dogs will likely experience a “fight or flight” mentality where they may run away or become aggressive during stressful situations. This is the most common event where dogs end up in shelters or hurting someone or themselves.
- Keep the dog indoors: The simplest way to avoid a runaway or aggressive dog, is to keep them indoors in a dimly lit and calm setting. This could include a small room far away from noises or even a crate with a blanket on top of it. Decreasing the number of stimuli is imperative.
- Create new associations: Owners should also become aware of what their dog is motivated by and use that as an opportunity to keep the dog calm in situations like these. Whether it be a specific toy or treat that they like, causing a pleasant distraction during an event like fireworks will create a new association for the dog. If loud noises become associated with playing with their favorite toy, then fireworks will become less daunting. There are also products, like a dog anxiety vest (Thunder Shirt), that provides dogs with gentle, constant pressure – like swaddling an infant – that can keep them feeling safer and less anxious.
- Prepare for the worst: In the unlikely event that a dog escapes their crate or indoor space, make sure you have them armed with a collar that has technologically advanced GPS tracking capabilities. For example, the SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence uses a GPS system to track pups within 10 feet of their location. With only a smartphone app and reliable cellular service, owners receive updates on their pups’ whereabouts every six seconds.
In addition to being able to track your dog, be sure to have an updated photo of him or her so they can easily be identified. The photo should include their whole body to help identify the dog by its size and features. Luckily, authorities on the Cape are very reliable when it comes to lost pets and have several resources that can help bring lost pets home like the Animal Rescue League in Brewster and the MSPCA Angell as well as various Animal Control Departments across the region.
Being prepared and knowing how to properly care for the family dog during the Fourth of July is a step in the right direction towards helping reduce the dog’s anxieties and avoid potentially dangerous situations. Considering these recommendations will also make the summer holiday more enjoyable for all family and friends who gather on the Cape.