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How to keep dogs safe (and not hiding behind the toilet) during fireworks




Laurel Birmingham and friend at the Pasadena Humane Society.
Laurel Birmingham and friend at the Pasadena Humane Society.
John Rabe

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"You or I know that it's fireworks. A dog has no idea. You can't explain to them, 'Okay, look, Fido, they're having fireworks tonight. It's nothing to be concerned about.'"

— Laurel Birmingham, Pasadena Humane Society

Last week, I went to the Pasadena Humane Society to get tips from Laurel Birmingham, the shelter's health care manager, about pets and heat waves. Laurel's back this week to help keep your dog safe and reasonably sane during fireworks season.

File photo of July 4th fireworks.
File photo of July 4th fireworks.
brownpau via Flickr

Guess what day is the busiest for the PHS? It's July 5, when people bring in dogs that went crazy during the fireworks and ran from home.

"Even if you think your dog is secure in your yard, once those fireworks start, a dog might jump the fence that's never jumped the fence before," Birmingham says.

Planning is key. "Get in touch with your vet before the Fourth," she says, "and you'll probably want to ask for a mild sedative for the dog." Benadryl is commonly used to calm dogs, but do a test run, Birmingham says, because in some dogs it can have the opposite effect.

For much more, including some speculation about dogs' favorite hiding place — behind your toilet — listen to the audio for my interview with Laurel.

Meantime, here are more tips from the humane society website:

  • Keep pets indoors with windows and doors closed.
  • Play music to help cover the noise of Fireworks (Through a Dog’s Ear CD or classical music).
  • Don’t take your dog to the Fireworks display. The sounds and smells are too intense for them and not enjoyable.
  • If you are home, do an activity that your dog enjoys and will take their mind of the noise outside (hide and seek, training cues, tug, fetch, etc.).
  • Give dogs a bully stick or chew toy to help occupy their time.
  • Before the festivities, tire your dog out by exercising them.
  • Use calming spray or oils (Rescue Remedy, Calming Chews, Lavender Calming Spray).
  • If your dog already uses a Thundershirt, put this on them (the Thundershirt should be put on a few days prior to the 4th in order for your dog to acclimate if they haven’t used one before).
  • If you are having the party, make sure to keep human food and adult beverages out of your pet’s reach. Keep pets in a safe area of your home away from the doors that lead outside.
  • Make sure your pet has updated ID tags on and they are secure on the collar.