PITTSBURG — Independence Day fireworks are an event that many residents look forward to every year. However, canine companions are often a little less enthused with the flashes and bangs.
Professional dog trainer Kelci Cooper, who owns Kelci Rae’s Dog & Handler Training, says there is a lot that can be done to help dogs be more comfortable.
“The best way to keep a dog calm during the evening of the 4th is to plan ahead,” said Cooper. “If you do, then there is a lot you can do to lessen the stress of fireworks.”
According to Cooper over 45 percent of all dogs are scared of fireworks, and more pets go missing over the Independence Day celebrations than any other time of the year.
Cooper suggests first and foremost to get your dog worn out the day before your evening festivities.
“A tired dog is rarely an anxious dog,” she said “Give them a good long walk, a fun play session, and lots of quality time.”
Cooper also said the importance of a safe place for your dog during the fireworks can’t be overstated.
“Give your dog a crate, or very safe place during the night,” said Cooper “It needs to be in a room they can not get out of, and consider bringing in outside dogs as well.”
Cooper cautions that even if you think your dog will react fine to your fireworks, residents never know what their neighborhoods will be shooting off.
“It’s always better safe than sorry,” Cooper said. “A dog’s hearing is a great deal better than ours. What sounds like a nice boom to us is devastatingly loud to them.”
Cooper says there are additional options if you know your pet is uncomfortable with fireworks.
“You can contact your vet for a sedative for this year, or there are natural options as well,” she said. “For future celebrations you can meet with a trainer who can teach your dog to be more comfortable with fireworks.”
According to Cooper the best thing to do if your pet becomes anxious is to remain calm.
“Dogs look to us for our reactions, so it’s important to stay relaxed and centered,” Cooper said “Calmly take them to their safe place. Don’t coddle them, just show them it’s okay by being okay.”
She also encourages people to take precautions such as making sure your dog has their ID tag on, and writing your name and phone number on the inside of their collars.
If your dog does go missing during the holiday Cooper encourages you to take the following steps:
Contact neighbors to see if anyone has seen your pet.
Post on social media sites like the facebook group SEK Lost & Found Pets. Make sure to include a picture detailed description of your pet. Ask friends and family to share your post to increase its reach.
Check the local animal shelter as dogs found within the city limits go there before rescues.
Check your local rescues.
Take some clothes you wore that day and place them outside of your home. If your dog is lost and scared the scent of you may be enough to guide them home.
Cooper said she has been receiving a lot of calls for advice on fireworks, and considers the uptick in caution a good thing.
“People are really starting to be aware of how hard fireworks are for dogs. That's really heartening to see so many people reaching out to help their animals cope.”