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Should You Bring Your Dog to a July Fourth Celebration?

Want to bring your dog to an Independence Day celebration, but worried the fireworks and crowds will scare him off? Here's a few tips to bring your dog, or not, whatever you prefer.

By
Sarah Hodgson, Guest Author,
June 22, 2016

Everyone loves the start of summer, and what better way to jumpstart the season’s fun than to join in the upcoming Independence Day celebration? Fireworks, food, friends and family: the 4th of July offers something for everyone—everyone that is, minus the dog.

Unlike kids who can comprehend the hoopla, and gather courage from their parent’s excitement, most dogs are taken back by the sudden crowd, a smorgasbord of food they are not allowed to sample, and booms in the night sky. 

Think of it from your dog’s perspective. Unless raised around heavy foot traffic, dogs happily habituate to their family’s daily routines and habits.  To a dog, whose mental comprehension matches a toddlers, certainty is bliss: from morning walks to the school bus, hiking trail or dog park to nighttime rituals of play, feeding, and bedtime.

But celebrations toss certainty to the wind and none more so than ones that include fireworks. Although there is little you can do to precondition your dog to booms in the night sky, there is a lot you can do to help him acclimate to your celebratory mood. In the end, you’ll need to decide where your dog will be most content: tolerating in a quiet corner of your home or taken along to enjoy the pre-firework social hour?

Want to Take Your Dog Along?

To me, my dogs are also my children, and celebrations are more fun when all the kids come along.  Think your dog would enjoy partying along side you?  Brush up on these moves to ensure you both have a good time

Say Hello

Pick a word that cues your dog that all is well in the world.  I choose “Say Hello,” but a friend likes the phrase “Champagne for everyone!”  Here’s how it works. Once you chose the phrase, share it with family and friends and say it each time he greets you with all four paws on the floor. You may use food or toys to encourage the Four Paw Rule.  Got that?  You’re ready to take this show on the road.  “Say Hello” each time you’re meeting a new dog or person, cueing your dog with food, toys, or pats to assure him that each new meet-n-greet and situation is a happy affair. The simple phrase lets your dog know that good things are coming and to look to your hands or a strangers for the prize.

Find It

Use this ice-breaker anytime you arrive somewhere new.  Play it now to teach your dog what “Find it” means.

·         Take a handful or your dog’s food/treats or several favorite toys

·         Toss it a few feet in front of him.  Tell him “Find it.”

·         Cheer when he does!

·         Toss another close to his face but in a different direction.

·         Is he catching on? Super!  Make it more challenging, increasing the distance or the ground surface.

·         Now you’re ready to take the show on the road. 

·         Use this game when meeting new people or to distract your dog from distant distractions!

Leave It

This direction tells your dog to ignore all distractions, from food on the table to children running.

Watch

This word reminds your dog to look to you. It’s a great way to encourage yours to check in with you when the chaos may be reaching a tipping point.

Stay

Whether in a sit or down position, a Stay reminds your dog that being at your side or on a dog bed brought from home is the most comforting place of all.  Reward your dog with food and bones (as long as he won’t growl or guard them) for holding still. 

Prefer to Leave You Dog Behind?

Parties can be more enjoyable without children.  Don’t feel guilty if you’d rather leave yours behind.  In fact, if your dog is anxious around new people or stressed by strange places, you’ll be doing him a big favor. And whether your departure will just mean a lonely night or solitude plus explosions will rock the night sky there is a lot you can do to ensure your dog rest calmly while you’re apart.

Noise  

Dogs don’t enjoy silence.  Filling your home with background noise while you’re will also block noises that might rouse, worry or remind your gone.  Leave on the TV or do what I do—play pet acoustic music which can be downloaded or purchase.  Tested and shown to have a dramatic affect on mood and anxiety levels the music can both calm anxiety and lull excitement.  

Exhaustion    

Know your head out?  Plan an extra playtime, walk or hike to ensure your dog is tired out when you leave.

Pacifiers         

I’m a big believer in busy toys.  While bones are stationary in my house—as prevalent as Legos—I have special bones and puppy pacifiers to offer my dogs when I leave.  They now excite to the words “Mommy going,” which I say as I head to their special treat drawer!

Happy Place  

Most dogs have a happy place in their home.  A favorite room, corner, or cushion they curl up in at night or when napping.  Find a way to enclose or leave them access to this area when you go out.  Use a word like “Night-night” or “On your matt” ahead of time so they don’t pair the word with being left alone.

Solitude        

When you leave your dog create an atmosphere of solitude.  Dim the lights, close the blinds, and secure the room if your dog’s a pacer.  Pacing signals stress, resulting in the increase of adrenaline and cortisol which can result in  destructive chewing, barking or self mutilation. While many dogs find a crate soothing, especially when it’s paired with music, special objects and food rewards, gating a room or area off can do the trick as well.

Why are dog’s more anxious and reactive than ever before?  Dogs used to enjoy a lot more freedom to sun, socialize and play.  Now they live a zoo-like existence where they are often trapped behind a door, window or fence and only interact with the world at the end of a leash.  These restrictions have led to a rapid uptick in anxiety, reactivity and aggression.

For more tips from Sarah Hodgson, check out Modern Dog Parenting, available for preorder on AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound, and Booksamillion.

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Having trouble communicating with your dog or puppy? Sarah Hodgson, aka the Happy Dog Mom, is here to help. She's written multiple best-selling books on dog training, and her next book, Modern Dog Parenting, will be out Fall 2016. You can reach her at sarah@whendogstalk.com or visit her website whendogstalk.com.

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