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Fireworks scare your dog? Modesto trainer’s July 4th tips to keep furry friends calm

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and is generally not a pet-friendly holiday, so now is the time to make thoughtful plans to ensure your dog gets through it safely.

Many otherwise normal, stable dogs become frightened and panic when surprised by the sound of fireworks, so it is imperative to have a plan in place before the holiday arrives.

Dogs that become moderately to highly stressed at the sound of fireworks often benefit greatly from medication. But one must be sure to give the right drug. Acepromazine is often prescribed by veterinarians for dogs with noise phobias, but it is a poor choice. Dr. Marty Becker, DVM writes, “Once widely prescribed for noise phobias, Acepromazine not only doesn’t work, it might make things much worse.”

It can be so difficult to watch the beloved family pet shiver and shake, drool and try to hide or get away from the noise that frightens them, but you can help them avoid that fear and panic with the right pharmacological help. Speak with your veterinarian now to discuss getting a prescription to aid in keeping your dog calm. Valium, Xanax, Trazadone and a few other drugs are good options; Acepromazine is not. For more information on this subject, visit http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/storm-phobias to read Dr. Karen Overall, DVM’s complete article, or watch her video presentation on the subject of Acepromazine at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6-GsmrFYHKk .

Try a test dose before the holiday, so you can make dosage adjustments if it doesn’t have the intended effect.

Your dog should be kept indoors during the holiday, and perhaps a few days prior and after, if you live in a neighborhood where fireworks go off multiple days. Even the most calm and steady dog can become unraveled with the sudden thunderous crack or boom of fireworks.

Terrified dogs that usually stay within the confines of their yard will do just about anything to get out to escape the noise when in a panic. Don’t risk it — keep your pets indoors; it’s the only way you can ensure their safety.

Another item that may be of benefit is a Thundershirt; a snug, full body pressure wrap that is easy to place on your dog, requires little or no adjustment or training period, and can provide significant and immediate results for many dogs.

This product is based on the work of Dr. Temple Grandin, noted author, Doctor of Animal Science, and professor at Colorado State University. The thought is that gentle pressure provided by this shirt calms the nervous system. As a professional dog trainer who has used and recommended this product to many clients, I can attest to the dramatic and instant results the Thundershirt has provided to many dogs.

A dog can comfortably wear a Thundershirt for long periods of time, which is helpful when you don’t know exactly when fireworks are going to go off. You can also leave your dog inside but unattended while wearing the Thundershirt, which is not recommended if you have given your dog a sedative.

Regardless of what products you may choose to apply, there are a few additional safety precautions to take during the holiday, even if your dog does not have a history of becoming fearful.

Set your dog up indoors in as calm of an environment as possible. Leave them in a dark and quiet room, crated if necessary, with some background noise like a fan, radio, or television.

Give your dog something enticing to focus on while crated, which may help distract him from the noises outside. Something special that he rarely gets, like a meaty bone or a unique toy with ports for adding treats such as peanut butter or cream cheese.

Check on your contained dog regularly, let him out for water breaks, and interact with him in a calm and soothing manner. Make sure he is as comfortable and relaxed as possible, before leaving him and enjoying the holiday in your own way.

Lisa Moore’s pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.

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