When I go in to the dog pound for a volunteer shift in a few days, I expect to see a lot of new dogs.
If this year is anything like last year, my local Animal Care & Control will pull dozens of extra dogs off the streets in the week following Independence Day. They won’t be scrawny “street” dogs. They will be well-groomed, well-fed, well-loved family pets. Dogs who simply mistook the noisy celebrations for the apocalypse, freaked out, and ran away from home.
Even dogs with no history of phobias, anxiety or escape attempts have been known to lose their marbles on the Fourth (and New Years, and any other holiday celebrated by blowing things up).
To keep your pup from joining the ranks of newly-minted shelter dogs, here is a last-minute plan for prepping Fido for the coming not-apocalypse:
1. Make sure Fido is wearing proper ID – Snap a tag with your name and phone number to your dog’s collar and check that the collar is secure. Also, is your dog microchipped? If not, you might want to see if you can get that done at your local shelter this week. Many shelters/pounds will chip your pet for $15 – $25. This is a really last minute thing but well worth it. Microchipping is the best way to make sure that you’ll be reunited with your pet if he ever gets lost.
2. Prepare an escape-proofed area – like a bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room. Put Fido’s crate/bed, toys and water in here. Make sure that there’s nothing important he can chew up. If Fido is not used to being in this room, spend the next couple days letting him hang out in here, so that he doesn’t think it’s weird when you lock him up here Monday night.
3. Prepare some food-filled toys – To keep your dog calm, you’ll want to give him something to keep his mind off the loud noises. What better way than to make him work for his dinner? Put together 3-5 (or more if you’re feeling ambitious) “smart toys:” Put peanut butter in a Kong (freeze it to make it last longer), fill an old sock with kibble. Click here for more smart toy ideas.
4. Exercise Fido a couple hours before celebrations start – What’s worse than an anxious dog? An anxious dog with energy to burn. Take him for a walk or play fetch. Nothing too strenuous (you don’t want him passing out), but 30-40 minutes of moderate exercise is good.
5. On the evening of the Fourth… As you’re getting ready to head out to your festivities, hide the smart toys in the dog-proofed area. One toy should be easy to find, the rest should require some work. Before you leave, stick Fido in his room. Key word: “casually.” If Fido senses that you’re stressed, he will freak out long before the first firework is launched. Be relaxed and upbeat: “Okay, buddy, time to go to your room. Oh, look! There’s a toy on the floor! With treats! Looks fun. Okay, Fido, seeya later!” Close the door securely behind you. If people will be in and out of the house, make sure that they know not to let the dog out.