For most of us, Memorial Day is full of traditions and happy memories, but for our dogs it can bring on stress and anxiety leading to potentially dangerous situations.
Parades, fireworks, and crowded barbecues are completely new situations for most dogs, and they don’t understand what’s going on. Animal shelters can even double their residents over the weekend as many pets run away from home, trying to escape the perceived danger. But you can keep your dog happy and safe by following these 5 tips to reduce your dog’s anxiety and stress around Memorial Day fireworks and festivities.
Work Out Your Dog’s Body and Mind And Reduce Anxiety
For your dog, extra exercise means they will be calmer, less alert, and hopefully less bothered by their surroundings. Before the action starts, take them for an extra-long walk, a trip to the dog park, have a playdate, or give them a mental exercise. Giving them a toy that slowly dispenses treats may hold their concentration if they start before they get frightened. If you opt for the psychical route, you get the bonus of burning some extra calories before enjoying those burgers, hot dogs, and beer. Getting enough exercise can be a big factor in reducing your dog’s anxiety.
Leave Dogs At Home During Parades and Secure Doors and Windows
This happy dog in Mexico loved walking a parade that he thought was for him. Not all dogs will have as good a time. If your dog is not used to crowds of people and loud noises, consider leaving them at home, even though they probably look great in their red, white, and blue gear. You can always snap a pic for Instagram. Loud music, marching bands, and close quarters could stress your dog, potentially causing fear-based aggression. If you’re leaving your dog at home, make sure they are safe and cannot escape. A dog’s instinct is to run away from danger. Even if you usually leave your dog in the yard, a change in environment could create unexpected behavior.
Practice Safe BBQ
A meat forward barbecue is something our dogs can really get behind! Like any day, it’s nice to share food, just make sure you are sharing safely. Remember, members of the onion and garlic family are toxic to dogs, as is alcohol, so make sure your pup doesn’t get into any of that good human stuff. Avoid sharing processed meats as some ingredients could make them sick. Stick to meats that are plain, unseasoned, and do not contain bones. Cooked bones can splinter in your dog’s digestive system, requiring an unwanted visit to the vet. Try sharing some summer staples, like fresh watermelon or crunchy carrots. Check out our full guide to what your dog can and can’t eat.
Reduce Anxiety of Fireworks
If your dog is afraid of thunder, they will probably be afraid of fireworks too. You can reduce their anxiety by making sure they have a space they feel safe in. This might be a crate, under a bed or couch, or nestled in a corner or under blankets. Let your dog be in their space. Pulling them out may add to their fear. You can offer them treats to make them feel comfortable and sit near them calmly. Adding familiar stimuli like music, TV, or radio can help to drown out the loud scary “booms”. You can even use a white noise machine if you have one. Try to keep your dog’s environment consistent with what they’re used to. Introducing new things could make them feel even more uncomfortable.
Leash for Safety
If you’ve made the decision to bring your dog along with you, make sure you keep them leashed. If you’re in a backyard with an open gate, a park, or a public place, your dog may try to run away. Even if your dog is well trained to stay by your side, the crowds and loud noises may cause them to take off in an effort to remove themselves from the situation. Keep them leashed to keep them safe. Even if you’re home, keep the doors and windows closed. This will reduce anxiety of fireworks noises and keep your pets safely enclosed.