June 26, 2024

Episode 344: Dogs and Fireworks

In this episode (25:03)

In this episode, we share our personal experiences and tips for helping dogs who get anxious during Fourth of July fireworks, discussing both successful and unsuccessful strategies.

You Will Learn

  • Strategies to create a comfortable and secure environment for your dog during fireworks.
  • How to prepare in advance for fireworks with physical activity.
  • Tips on using background noise or music to drown out firework sounds.
  • Using anti-anxiety medications and natural supplements.


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Welcome to Bad Dog Agility, a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals. Whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard. We'll bring you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? I'm ready. I'm ready. I'm ready. The show starts with your hosts, Jennifer, Esteban, and Sarah.

I'm Jennifer. I'm Esteban. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 344. Today's podcast is brought to you by St. Rocco's treats. It's grace from Hounds of Hack. It's Amber from american canine country. It's Cynthia from Ch Dog agility. It's Lindsey from y two canines. And we love using St. Rocco's treats as our high value reward. And you will, too. Visit us at St. Rocco's treats shop and use the code BD 30 for 30% off your first order.

Enjoy the attention grabbing flavor, an easy to break texture that grace, Amber, Cynthia, Lindsay, and so many others love about St. Rocco's treats. Again, use the code bd 30 for 30% off. Thank you. And you can find a link to St. Rocco's treats on the show notes page. Today we're going to be talking about the 4 July. It is every dog owner's favorite holiday. I'm just kidding. It's totally not.

And if you're not in the United States, we're talking about a holiday that includes a lot of fireworks. And that's really the only important part about 4 July for the purposes of this podcast. So if you live somewhere else, you can think of this as the new year's Eve podcast or any other event that you have in your country that involves fireworks. We're going to talk about what we have done in the past, what we do now, to help our dogs through fireworks.

Um, we have dogs that are thunder phobic for sure. And of course, in my opinion, any dog that's thunder phobic is, um, going to have a hard time with lightning. But we also have dogs that are pretty okay with. Did you mean fireworks or lightning? Oh, fireworks. Yes, you're right. Okay. You said lightning. Got it. I imagine most dogs would struggle with, you know, being hit by lightning.

That's true. That's true. Yes, fireworks. Um, but I think that, uh, even dogs that do okay in thunderstorms, the intensity of fireworks can be a bit much for, um, even more dogs. Right. So it's something that we wanted to talk about on the podcast and give our personal experiences. Um, and it's something that you can refer back to for, you know, any holiday that might involve fireworks. So Jen, do you have dogs that don't like fireworks?

I am lucky in that none of my dogs have extreme reactions to them. They are aware of them, but I'm certainly not going to go like on an outdoor walk with six off leash dogs when I think fireworks may be going off, but none of mine get too worried. It's more of an awareness. And I think, you know, the quantity and closeness of them definitely seems to affect how they act as well.

Yeah, that's a really good point because at our house, and I think one of the things that makes this so hard for us is that our house, our backyard there is right next to a park, and people go to that park and set off fireworks. So they are literally happening above our backyard within like 200ft of, you know, being launched. 200, yeah, within 50 yards for sure of, of our dogs.

And so it, it is, I mean, they have jump scared me. There have been times where I'll be outside and then it'll boom and I'll jump. It's like loud enough to jump scare me, so. Right. I think Jen's on to something there with being proactive. Right. So if Jen's not going to walk around out there with dogs who are pretty good around thunder off leash, then this is a great time for everyone to be very proactive.

So, you know, our dogs don't really have access to the outside, but I know a lot of other people do. Right. Like through dog doors or, or kennels, they can kind of get in and out. Uh, that might be the, the time to shut it down, you know, 03:00 in the afternoon or maybe even earlier in the day, depending on if, you know, they're, people are going to be setting off certain kinds of fireworks, um, out in the neighborhood, you know, just be proactive and say, okay, I'm going to bring everybody indoors.

It's like if you had a cat, especially a black cat around Halloween, you need to bring that cat inside. That's right. Right. Yeah. And so, um, a lot of these things we have kind of discovered over the years, which was another reason for this podcast, I've kind of learned some lessons with our own dogs and I just want to put some ideas out there that maybe you hadn't thought of or didn't really feel like you could do, and I want to give you permission to do.

So, uh, one of those is how you plan your meals. So we want to have to take our dogs out as little as possible once the firework starts. And so one of the things that we can do that that can adjust that is, how much water do we give our dogs? When do we give it to them? When do we give them their meals? And I know a lot of people feed their dogs twice a day, and it would feel shocking to them to maybe just do one meal on the 4 July and make it early in the day.

But we, Estefan and I, having had careers and worked away from the home for a lot of our dogs lives, um, we have always fed our dogs only once a day. People are always shocked when we say that, but all of our dogs, their whole entire lives, have been on a once a day schedule. For feeding, they get water. More than that, but for feeding, they only get it once a day.

And we had dogs that lived to 18, 1715, like we had. Really. I almost thought that for a while, that it was the key to their longevity. So it is possible you can do it, and you can do it for this one day. So that is one tip, um, that I wanted to put out there in terms of how you structure your meals. Yeah. Because we're talking about taking them out to bathroom.

Right. To the bathroom. Right. To potty. And that's something that they just don't want to do, you know. Right. And so why fill them up with stuff. Right. You know, so. And make them uncomfortable or they're going to have accidents in the house. Yeah. They can kind of get through it for a day, feed them nice and early. Right. And so another. Oh, go ahead. Well, I was gonna say another thing along the lines of meals.

So I don't, um. I don't skip a meal just because, again, my dogs aren't super worried about it, so I can't take them out, but they're a little bit uneasy is on July 4, which is like the. For us, actually, it's July 3 and July 4, so July 3 is the big city of Columbus. Fireworks, which tends to mean that the suburbs aren't doing much. And people, individuals, they go downtown, they go to the big party down there.

But there's some stuff on July 3, and then July 4 is the big one. I do a lot throughout the day to try to mentally wear my dogs down and give them stimulation, because I want them to be tired. I want them to be relaxed. I want them to be so excited to just go in their crate and chill. So I do all of their meals around the 4 July in some form of enrichment.

So I will freeze things and put them in topples and make their meal take a long time to get through. I will do puzzles. I will do, like, take their allotted food into it throughout the day. So normally, my dogs get, you know, food in the morning, food in the evening. I will do a little bit in this puzzle, a little bit in a kong, a little bit in this puzzle.

I will freeze stuff and make them, you know, freeze it in and put it in a topple or a kong or the, like, in ice cubes. Like, I try to do stuff that's going to make it go throughout the day as a way, not so much to minimize needing to take them out, but as a way to give them enrichment, because I know on those days, a, I want them to be tired, but b, I want them to wear themselves out, to kind of be and give them things that are going to distract them from the fireworks.

That's what I was thinking of. I was like, there's two reasons to wear them out and distract them. So the more they're doing throughout the day, instead of eating their kibble and having it done in 9 seconds, like most of my shelties would do, I make it last 30 minutes and do it throughout the day. So there's kind of some different approaches in terms of the feeding. I think being mindful of the meals and when you have to take them out is super important.

I've also known people that have done just like, they put their dogs up at 05:00 p.m. and you think, well, they're not going to make it till 05:00 a.m. and then they set an alarm and get up at one or 02:00 a.m. to take them out, like, when most people have gone to bed, and I know it's like, oh, my gosh, I don't want to set an alarm at one or 02:00 a.m.

but if it's what's best for your dog in terms of safety, you set an alarm, you get up, you take them out for 15 minutes when everybody's asleep, and it's quiet, and you go back to bed. So I think that's always an option for taking them out. I usually think of bringing my dogs in at, like, post human dinner time because that's when people start doing stuff like, oh, dinner's over, and the kids want to set them up.

So I'm like, okay, if people meet at, like, three or four for a cookout, they eat dinner at five by, like, 536, you'll start hearing them go off. So that's kind of my rule of thumb. I used to do it when it got dark, and I've learned over the years people do not wait until it's dark to set off fireworks, which is such an interesting concept for me because you can't see them.

But, uh, so kind of thinking post human dinner time is when the, the height of that action is going to happen. Yeah, that's a really great point. And, and, um, it is something that has been a recent discovery for me because I was very much of the mindset of, well, I have to take them out. Like, they're going to, they're going to hate it, but they have to go to the bathroom.

They have to go to the bathroom. They're never going to make it. And then it was really our two most recent dogs, the golden and the poodle, who are very dependable when it comes to accidents. They don't have accidents. And I was taking them out and they never did anything. They could not go to the bathroom with that stuff going on anyway. So all I did was take their stress to the absolute max, and I didn't even get even a pee out of them.

So it was just not there. There was really no point. And so I finally, like, made the mental note, I think last two fourth of julys, and then last 4 July, I actually went through with it of just once I put them up, they're up, and I'm not taking them out again. I'm not going to try to take them out. I'm not going to try to get that, you know, before bed potty or anything.

And they went all the way till morning, both of them, and they were so much happier. Right. And so, you know, the skipping potty is definitely an option. And I think leaving them essentially alone, because the other thing that I think over the years, I would have the feeling of I don't want to keep them, you know, locked up in their crates this entire time, et cetera, et cetera, kind of that guilt setting in.

But my dogs, at least, are happier in their crates than they are free. If you let them be free, they will go and try to find a crate to be in. Right. They try to squeeze themselves, you know, under the coffee table. And so it was like, kind of the one to hide away. They want to hide. And so I finally learned that, like, it don't feel bad, like, it is what is best for them to just let them go into their crates.

They tend to curl up in a tiny little ball in the back. That's where they feel best. And I just leave them alone, and I don't make them get up and go to the bathroom, and I don't make them go out into the outdoors when the fireworks are going off. Yeah. So I think a major theme here that everyone can kind of see now is that different dogs are going to require different things.

Right, right. So dogs will, you know, some of them tolerate it perfectly fine. Others are like, jen, they tolerated pretty well, but they certainly benefit, you know, from some intervention, a little bit of assistance, and then even in our household, we have dogs that do okay. But these two puppies, yeah, they are absolutely the worst. I think the poodle is the absolute worst of the worst. And she.

She can even be a screamer during thunderstorms. Like, she will scream like someone is hitting her or something. There's a monster after her. And she's very much our daughter's dog. So our daughter now just turned 14, and so our daughter will come and get her and take her to her room. And she says that when that happens, the poodle just basically runs to her and gets between her legs.

If Hannah's sitting down and just, like, curls up there in her lap, do the worst of it. And then as the poodle becomes comfortable, she will relax a little bit. At some point, even during a storm, she will go ahead and then sit on one of several dog beds that they have there. You know, it's really a poodle palace there in Hannah's room. That's right. A lot of different places that she can go, but she says she will go and she will curl up and then just kind of stay there.

And so I think everybody's different. I think there was a time when I was like, I wish I could hold all of my dogs. I was like, you know, you come over here. I think I even tried that with some of the older dogs, maybe the first generation dogs, thinking, oh, they want physical contact from me. Like, you know, I need to hold them like I would a baby, a human infant.

Right. I don't think that they necessarily need that. I think they can come looking for some reassurance, but then you can kind of see them relax, and they tend to kind of sleep through it. And then as the noises pop, you can see their ears move, or they kind of, like, they respond to it physically, but they don't necessarily get up like they're gonna. They're gonna be okay.

So some dogs, I think, are like that. Others, you know, they definitely want to be in a crate, and if you try and bring them out, they will just keep going back to their crate. So I respect that. Right. You know, I let them do whatever it is that they're going to do. Yeah. I think what I've discovered is that as bad as we say our dogs are, they're actually not so bad in the house.

It is when you try and take them out and something happens. So one thing I will say does not, has never worked for me, is trying to find a break in the fireworks. So there's always that moment where it feels like it, like, is dying down, and you're like, I'm going to take them out real quick before it starts up again. And then right when you're outside, something goes off, and then.

And then they are not okay in the house, having just had that experience outdoors. And so that's kind of where this idea of we're just going to avoid the outdoors, um, during the fireworks, for me, comes from. And it's been really interesting for me, too. I don't know if. I don't even know if I've told you this is. But, um, the day after 4 July, if I had taken them outside and tried to get them to go potty, the day after 4 July, they're fine going outside during the day.

When I open the door and it's dark outside, they will not go outside. I've had to pick the dogs up and carry them outside on July 5 because the experience of July 4 was so bad that when they see it's dark outside, they're like, no, dark is when the bad stuff happens. So amazing. I know, right? It takes, like, multiple days after 4 July for them to go outside, you know, happily.

And I was just going to comment on that. If anybody hasn't put together the idea of looking at a calendar, I think this year, unfortunately, is going to be a worse year than normal because July 4 is on a Thursday, which means it bleeds right into the weekend. So you're going to get the fireworks on a Thursday, and then, guess what? Friday night. Because people are off work Saturday and then Saturday night, and then, you know, kind of die down on Sunday.

Like when we have July 4 on, like a Monday, right? People. People set them off, like, on July 4. But, you know, you. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, everybody's back. You got to get back to work. Yeah. You're going to have the July 4 holiday that people are going to have off, and then they probably have long weekends. So a lot of people are going to have, like, four day weekends plus fireworks will go on sale the next day.

So a lot of people will wait until July 5 to go buy them and then spend the weekend setting them off. So all the tips and things that we are talking about on this podcast be prepared. This year is going to need to last for several days. So I think, you know, looking at kind of your schedules for the day and when you can get them out, I will say that is one thing that I try to do, is I mentioned it with the enrichment and the topples, but lots of time on, like, walks and going out and going potty and stuff during the day and trying to kind of wear them out during the day.

Like, on July 4, I don't work, not because I'm doing anything special for the holiday, but typically because I'm attending to the dogs and people want the holidays off anyway, to get them outside and to give them plenty of stuff. I will do some training stuff that then by the evening, they're kind of settling in. And as you were talking about the poodle going up to Hannah's room, that triggered me that the other thing I tend to do, and I think this started years ago.

So this might be something for those of you that maybe have young dogs or puppies, is if I have a dog that's more nervous and more responsive and reactive, I do try to keep them away from the more influential ones because I do find that so many of the traits and tendencies the dogs will, like, acquire and not just acquire. I'm not making it sound like thunder phobic dogs learn it from other dogs, but in that moment, it can make my other dogs more uneasy.

So high five is the one who's the most sensitive and all the other dogs, she's also one of the. In terms of, like, my pack, like, she's one of the older dogs, and the dogs, I feel, like, look up to her and they mimic her behaviors. Like, if she goes somewhere, they go that way, you know, and if she goes here, they do that. If I call high five in, I know I get high five and I get all the other dogs, right?

So I tend to keep her kind of away from the other dogs during storms and fireworks because I don't want them to be like, well, she's nervous. I should be nervous. What are we nervous about? Should I get nervous about something? So I do think you can be mindful of deciding, is it more comforting for your dogs to have each other, or is it potentially. You know what?

I have one dog that's fine. One dog that's worried. And a puppy maybe let the puppy hang out with the dog. That's not so worried. So kind of potentially separating and dividing the dogs up and letting them find their safe space. And not to state the obvious, but also basements with loud radios are great tools. That typically is where our dogs go. Yeah. So we don't have basements in Texas.

Nobody has basements in Texas. So it's not just part of Texas. Right. Yeah, because of the flooding swamp. So to build a basement would be to risk flooding everything in the basement. See, everybody in the Midwest has basements because we have tornadoes. Right, right, right. That's a great idea. It's like we go into the basement and turn tv, movies, radio on. Like, I try to just let the dogs think, like, oh, we're hanging out in the basement and having a movie and popcorn party.

Right. We do that. We do that tv. Turn it up a little bit. Right. So, Dan, I have a question for you. So aside from how you structure the day and things like that, is there anything else that you do for your dogs, like anything that you do special or is that basically it? You're managing their meals and you're managing their emotional mental state? The only other thing that I do, and it's more like a preventative, not something that I necessarily know for a fact they need, is I do use over the count anti anxiety.

So I don't. I don't. I don't go extreme to the vet, although I'm very aware that a lot of people do. And I think that's a great option. I don't feel like my dogs are severe enough, but I do use a combination of and or UCoM and Zelke, which are just too over the counter. Nothing crazy, like anti anxiety. Just help kind of, like, take off the edge.

So I don't. I would say that that kind of planning my day, wearing them out, being mindful about where they are and what the noise and what they're hearing and then some calming stuff to help them is like, kind of my go to plan, right? Yeah, I think so. We've used in the past thunder coats, and we have them for all of the dogs. I'm not sure how much.

Yeah, a thunder coat is like, it's made for thunder, and it's basically like. It's like a wrap for their midsection. It's, like, supposed to be like giving them a hug, like having a weight. Like a weighted blanket, like. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like, weighted blankets are, like, anti anxiety calming things. I have one. I love it. Exactly. Yeah. So, you know, I'm not sure that it helped them much.

I feel like maybe like if you have like one of those dogs that shakes when they're scared, I feel like maybe it helps with that. Maybe even it makes it feel weird for them to shake with it on. But I didn't find that it made a significant difference for our dogs. Um, and then I think, you know, you mentioned like um, stuff from the vet. I, one of our dogs as she got older, had a lot of, you know, behaviors like anxiety type behaviors, and we had trazodone for her.

And again, I didn't feel like it was very helpful for things like thunderstorms and 4 July. I just didn't see a lot of difference in her behavior. Now one thing that we tried for the first time last July and it was the best 4 July we've ever had. So I'm, I'm on board, um, is something called elevet. And they're like, it's like you said, over the counter anxiety stuff.

This is like a hemp oil and, and I'm just going to say that like we've never like we're not, we don't do a lot of supplementals. I think it kind of a little bit stems from, you know, being married to a doctor. It's like there's got to be studies and you know, and all that kind of stuff. Um, but this one was recommended to us by our vet and she said that there were studies behind it and it was like the one, you know, CBD type thing that she would recommend.

And so we tried it and then it was the best 4 July we'd ever had. So now I'm like yeah, we're, we do it for thunderstorms, we do it for 4 July and it, they just, they were still not happy and they still would not go to the bathroom outside, but inside of the house. They were the best they'd ever been, um, with everything else going on, so that might be something for people to try if they haven't yet.

So thats kind of like our personal experience and those are basically, I think weve hit on everything that weve tried and kind of the good and the bad with it. Well, you mentioned getting stuff from the vet and Jen pointed out while we were prepping for this podcast, the time, well actually she mentioned during the podcast too, right, the timing of the holiday this year. So if you do have a dog, thats really, really bad and it has never occurred to you to go and get something from the vet, right?

In the way of like sedative or anxiety or something like that. Like, now's the time. We're taping June 25 here. I'm not sure when this will be posted. Tomorrow morning? Yep. Okay. Tomorrow, the 26th July 4 is coming. You know, like get in to see your vet immediately and see what they can do for you. Absolutely. All right, Jennifer, anything else? I think we covered most of the tips that I have.

I know it's a rough experience for a lot of dog owners. And the thing that I will say as a person, trying to be very balanced in having my obsession with dogs, but also trying to look at things from the outside. As you see a lot of people on social media and talking about, you know, I don't understand why people love fireworks. Fireworks are so dumb. You have to remember that people that don't have dogs and people that don't have animals find fireworks very cool.

My son absolutely loves them. So that you do got to kind of remember that, you know, you don't have to hate the world because it's hard for your dog. It is hard, I get that. But try to remember that there's a ton of people out there that find them really fascinating and cool, and you just got to be proactive and do the absolute best you can for those few days out of 365 days in a year.

Great. Great point. And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsors, St. Rocco's treats and hititboard.com dot. Check out the teeter teach it only at hit itboard.com dot. The teeter teach it is an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to hitaboard.com for the new teeter teach it and other training tools and toys.

Use discount code BDA ten to get 10% off your order. That's hitaboard.com. happy training. Thank you for listening to bad dogging agility. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates and links to all our socials, just check out our website, www.baddogility.com. if you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community. Until next time, take care. What do ducks love about the 4 July fire?


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