A puppy pokes its head out of its bag. Athens hosted its annual Star Spangled Classic July Fourth celebration in downtown Athens, Georgia on June 29, 2019. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rac86114@uga.edu)

As the Fourth of July approaches us this week, there is something that has always bothered me when watching a firework’s show — owners bringing their puppies around fireworks. 

To be fair, some pups are able to endure the loud sounds from fireworks. However, I’ve witnessed owners bringing their pups to events like Athens’ Star Spangled Classic and seeing the negative effects the fireworks have. Athens-Clarke County’s event page on this event even recommends leaving your pet at home. I have a personal fear of loud noises; however, I find that I can cope with it mostly because I am aware of what is happening around me. Dogs cannot understand what the noises are and could be put into a state of fear. We as a community need to prevent dogs from being exposed to harsh environments for entertainment and learn the dangerous effects fireworks have on dogs. 

Owners should learn when their dog is experiencing fear or anxiety, as all dogs respond in different ways. The American Kennel Club lists the symptoms for fear related anxiety in dogs. Dogs do not always cower when fearful, but can drool, be aggressive, and have excessive barking — in my experience, my dog paces and pants a lot. Pacing and panting are behaviors I see from dogs during any fireworks show I go to and I wish their owners would be more attentive to their dog’s needs. If you cannot afford to leave your dog at home for an extended amount of time, try finding other accommodations rather than bringing them with you. The negative effect anxiety can have on your dog may cause more harm than good.

Anxiety adversely affects humans, and it is no different with canines. In a study of Behavioral Problems of Dogs, doctor of veterinary medicine Gary M. Landsberg tells owners to reduce their pet’s exposure to noises and to find treatments for anxiety due to prolonged stress on the dogs’ bodies. As dogs as shorter life spans, stress can be exponentially detrimental to their health, such as contributing to heart-attacks and strokes. 

If you absolutely cannot leave your dog at home and you must bring them to the fireworks make sure to reduce potential anxiety as calm as possible. The AKC suggests CBD oils, thunder jackets and other training tips to help your dog be calm in these situations. However, your dog might always be naturally afraid of fireworks no matter how much training your give them.

Should fireworks not interest you, volunteering at local Athens animal shelters to comfort anxious dogs.  The Athens Area Humane Society and Athens Canine Rescue love having volunteers and physical comfort for these dogs is a great way to spend the Fourth of July. Volunteering would be a great way to make a difference in these animals’ lives and giving support to the organizations. 

Fireworks are fun for humans but not for all dogs. Being more aware of the symptoms your dog is showing could protect their health. It is much safer to leave pets at home when celebrating. They are your family, make the proper accommodations for them while you go celebrate.

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