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This Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate with the sights and sounds of fireworks. While we love the pyrotechnics, it's important to remember that our patriotic midsummer spectacular is no holiday for many of our pets.
We humans may ooh and aah over every explosion, but our pets are very often frightened out of their wits. They'll spend the holiday hiding under the bed or in the basement, cowering, shaking, drooling and seeking safety and comfort. Scared pets have been known to jump out of apartment windows, leap over or dig under fences, or chew their skin until it's raw. They may also bolt out an open door and become lost.
Not all dogs are afraid of fireworks. Our Golden Retriever, Shakira, wouldn't flinch if a keg of gunpowder exploded next to her. Shop vacs, lawn mowers, grass trimmers, motorcycles, thunderstorms and fireworks elicit but a yawn. On the other hand, Quixote, our Yorkie/Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix, treats loud sounds as if the grim reaper were calling — and there's no way he's going to answer. When it comes to big noises, this dog is a scaredy-cat.
The best defense against Fourth of July problems is a good offense. While comforting your scared pet may seem like the right thing to do, it's not. Don't reward the fear. If you remain calm and don't baby your dog or cat, he will be closer to learning how to handle loud noises.
Instead, turn a potentially negative experience such as fireworks into something rewarding. When a negative experience comes with tasty treats, your pet may be more likely to tolerate it or maybe even welcome it. This works best when started as a puppy, but don't give up hope if your dog is already an adult: New behaviors can be learned.
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