It’s hard to think of something more quintessentially summer than the 4th of July and all the fireworks. Preparing your dog for a day like Independence Day is important for his overall well-being, and dog interactive toys are one great way to do this, says Dr. Colleen Koch, DVM, DACVB, a behavior consultant for the Mizzou Animal Behavior Clinic at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in Wentzville, Missouri.
For dogs, fireworks are the ultimate fear—heights, snakes and public speaking all rolled into one. Because of this, the number of lost pets increases 30 percent after July 4, with July 5 being one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters, according to PetAmberAlert.com.
Kathy Reilly, (CDBC), CBCC-KA, a certified dog behavior consultant and owner of Sit Happens Behavior Consulting in Wesley Chapel, North Carolina, says fireworks are extremely startling to many dogs because they’re unnatural.
“They differ from thunderstorms because with those, dogs can sense the drop in barometric pressure and the electrical charge in the air,” Reilly says. “When fireworks occur, there’s no warning; it’s just sudden noise.”
Additionally, she says that a dog’s keen sense of hearing means fireworks sound much louder to them than they do to us.
How to Calm a Dog During 4th of July Fireworks
Like Dr. Koch, Reilly says dog puzzles and other interactive toys can help reduce dog anxiety. But don’t wait until all the commotion to spring such dog toys on your pet.
“It is important to introduce the toys and food puzzles to your pet prior to a distressing situation,” Reilly says. “They should be very easy with high value food in them at first to help the pet learn how to use them and set them up for success.
“The pet should be excited to see the food puzzles and toys, so they are truly a distraction from the fireworks—not a cue that something bad might happen because they only get them when there are fireworks or other loud noises present,” she says
6 Dog Interactive Toys to Try
If you’re looking for good dog interactive toys to distract your pup with during 4th of July fireworks and other loud celebrations, start with these options:
Pet parents can twist this treat-dispensing toy to accommodate a variety of treat options and how experienced a pup is with dog interactive toys. If this is your dog’s first interactive toy, you can set it to an easy dispensing option. For seasoned dogs—and maybe on fireworks days—pet parents can make the toy more challenging.
This soft and durable toy is designed for dogs to chew on for hours and features an entertaining, erratic bounce. Pet parents can stuff it with dog treats as well as peanut butter to make it more tempting for pups, and the enticing smell might even help an anxious dog through a stretch of fireworks, Reilly says.
“Dogs are so in-tune with smell,” she says. “If you put something smelly in front of their nose, it actually lights up a different part of their brain, which will distract them from the fear of the fireworks.”
Resembling the shape of a horseshoe, this durable toy is designed to both physically and mentally engage pups. Your dog might just go nuts trying to get hold of the ring-shaped treats and remove them. The best part is that the chewing could help your dog’s dental health as well.
Dog puzzles like this one offer ways to distract pups and encourage them use their wits. This toy includes several compartments to hide treats in, presenting a challenge for your pup. He must open lids and flaps, pull knobs and drawers and tug on ropes making for a busy, distracted canine while the fireworks go off.
This unique speaker is designed to naturally calm a dog through soothing sounds.
“White noise helps replace anxiety-inducing sounds with something more comforting, such as a fan, television or music your pet enjoys,” Dr. Koch says.
This Bluetooth speaker is loaded with 90 minutes of music specifically developed by a sound behaviorist to reduce stress and calm nervous canines. And the small, portable design means you can move it anywhere your pet goes and needs it most.
Some experts say that comforting or calming your anxious dog is bad because it reinforces the fear, but that’s simply not the case, Reilly says.
“Fear is instinctual and natural; it happens in the brain,” she says. “If you have kids, imagine what happens when they jump out and scare you. Your blood pressure rises, you close your eyes, you scream.
“If you were offered a million dollars to feel that right now, out of the blue, you couldn’t do it,” Reilly says. “You’re being reinforced with a reward, but you still can’t do it.”
That’s the same thing with frightened dogs, she says.
The promise of a high-value reward—in this case, your love and company—isn’t something that will make him feel genuine fear without an external stimulus like fireworks. So, comforting your dog is a good thing. It can be a distraction, and your pup will like knowing that you’re there.
By John Gilpatrick
Featured Image: Chewy Studios