For many people the 4th of July is a time to celebrate; family, friends and fireworks make the holiday. For many dogs and their owners the experience is quite different.
More dogs regularly run away from home, escape and are lost during this time than any other. The stress of the day’s activities, the chaos of crowds and the barrage of firecrackers are just too much for our best friends to bear. How we handle them, and ourselves, can make or break the holiday.
At THE ZEN DOG our goal is to help you be able to be in right relationship through all kinds of circumstances. The 4th poses a certain challenge; our dogs only have this experience maybe twice a year (the other being New Year’s Eve) so they don’t have the benefit of repeated exposures that could make the festivities more tolerable.
Based on our experience here are some tips that’ll help you and yours “paws when agitated”.
- ID STANDS FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY. Make sure your pups have current tags, IDs, licenses and microchips with accurate contact information. In the event your pal gets lost you’ll want to be reached as soon as possible, the window for finding a dog gets much smaller after the first 48 hrs. An alarming number of dogs are never returned to their loving homes because their owners could not be located.
- RESIST THE URGE TO PROTECT AND CORRECT. If you pity, coddle or baby your dog during this stressful time you may be reinforcing its state of anxiety. They will, in effect, be rewarded for feeling weak. Remember, they are safe with you, carry yourself that way and use your energy to communicate as much. And never punish a dog for being scared. This will not only cost you their trust it will reinforce their idea that bad things happen at times like these.
- MENTAL EXHAUSTION TRUMPS PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION. Make it a point to spend some quality time with your faithful before things get crazy. Physical exercise is a great way to lower a dog’s stress level. Be sure to combine that workout with brain work, otherwise you’ll have a tired dog who’ll bounce back more amped up than before. A good walk using THE ZEN DOG exercises (focus / pace / name + focus + praise) can exhaust your dog’s mind while reinforcing the bond that you’ll want when the poop hits the fan. During this time you can also use treats for tricks, or even practice recall work (in a safe, confined space, of course).
- FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT rather than what you don’t want. We encourage our clients to “work in the realm of the positive”. Energy is your principle means of communication; dogs will pick up your attitudes based on what you hold in your mind. We’ve seen a remarkable number of dogs become immediately less reactive by changing the way we react – or respond – to times like these. Some of this will seem like Jedi mind tricks. It is, we’re all about using the Force.
- NO ‘HOME ALONE’. Your dog is a part of your family. Maybe this year you’ll consider staying home with her to create the sense of safety or comfort that you would for any other family member. If you really do need to get out (which we all do at times) see if you can follow the suggestions above, limit your time away and crate your dog safely until you return. The crate should be draped on all sides except the front and placed in a cozy corner. When you return don’t make a fuss about letting him out. If she is freaking out and just can’t sit still long enough to be released then let her out but play it cool. Detachment is one of THE ZEN DOG Alpha Tools. Remember, “it’s no big deal”. However, if your dog has not been crate trained, DO NOT use this holiday to start.
- CALMING AIDS. Many vets recommend Melatonin and THE ZEN DOG's Health & Wellness consultant Stef DiOrio says: My go-to supplement is Just Food for Dogs' CALM. It is a combination of Valerian Root Extract (145mg), Passion Flower (145mg) and Magnesium. The ingredients are USDA certified human-grade. These three ingredients have a synergistic effect that can naturally and safely reduce stress and induce relaxation for isolated events (i.e.: vet visits, fireworks, car rides, strangers in the home) or over long periods of time. You can't give too much, it's just about finding the right dosage for your dog’s level of anxiety or desired level of relaxation. (Increasing the initial/recommended dosage by a half capsule or full capsule(s) is 100% safe.
This year we look forward to spending the howliday with our dogs, and many of yours. Whatever you choose to do we hope you can enjoy the true freedom that comes with being in right relationship with all the ones you love.
Happy Indepawndence Day from all of us at THE ZEN DOG.