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July/August 2019

Summer poses a lot of concerns for dog owners, such as how to keep a dog cool in the heat, what to do during fireworks, and what happens if your dog gets into fight at the dog park (and should you even take your dog there in the first place?)

How can I cool down my dog from the summer heat?

The first thing we need to understand is that we may like to get out a do fun things in the summer sun and heat but rarely is this the case for dogs. By nature, dogs prefer not to be in the sun and heat for any extended periods of time (most are wearing a fur coat). If you do take your dog out, find areas of shade, use an umbrella or awning, spray them with a water hose, let them swim in a pond and or use kiddy pools to let them play in. Most importantly, always provide water (clean drinking) and keep the exposure time to the sun and heat short.

What can we do to keep our dogs safe and feeling secure during 4th of July fireworks?

When it comes to fireworks and dogs, one of the first things I think about is the need to know how our dogs will react. Of course, if you have never witnessed your dog around fireworks taking them to a 4th of July party with fireworks is not the best way to test this out. I certainly would not have a new dog or puppy at an event with fireworks without some knowledge of how it will affect them. If you have not exposed your dog to fireworks, then a good way to start is by having someone with some loud noise makers at a good distance away while your dog is being entertained or playing. This will give you a feel for their initial reactions. Typically, a dog that is reactive (fearful or aggressive) of fireworks is also fearful or aggressive of other noises like thunder and /or vehicles braking or backfiring so this may give some insight about how they will be around fireworks.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed dogs doing everything from trying to run for their lives while fireworks are going off, to chasing them, and even biting at them causing injuries.

In some cases, I understand some dogs live in areas that even being in their home it is not possible to keep the noise of fireworks away, especially on a holiday like 4th of July. When this is the case (regardless if the dogs are reactive in any manner or even neutral) I recommend keeping dogs in a safe confinement (crate or area they cannot escape, hurt themselves, destroy things, etc.) preferably something they are already accustomed to. In extreme cases some dogs may need to be confined and given a sedative (speak to your veterinarian about this). Often I see folks trying to comfort a dog that is either fearful or aggressive—and the dog it is not perceiving it the same way humans would. What we think we’re communicating is “oh, its OK. ”The dogs are likely taking this as “Yeah, I am glad you agree these loud noises are scary.”

My personal preference, although my dogs are fairly neutral to noises, is to just keep them away from fireworks and the shenanigans that go along with them. I do not believe that there is a benefit for the dogs to be around these events and it is likely that something negative will happen. Not to mention this cannot be good for their hearing either. There are much better events for socializing and exercising my dogs.

Are dog parks a good place to socialize?

Dog parks are not an ideal place to socialize our dogs. The benefits don’t outweigh the negatives. We have no way to control other people’s dogs, fights and /or inappropriate behaviors can escalate quickly and have negative long-lasting effects. We don’t know that all the other dogs are up-to-date with vaccines, either. Instead, choose to socialize your dog with other dogs that you know and when you can control the scenario in case there is an issue.

Also consider this—you didn’t get your dog to be buddies with other dogs. Sure, you want her to behave around other dogs but she should focus on you.

What should I do if my dog gets into a fight (at the dog park)?

Dog fights can be tough to deal with if it is truly a full-on fight. Luckily, the majority of dog altercations start off slowly, giving the owners time to step in quickly to separate the dogs. Even if they do not have a leash or collar on, I physically grab them. I have also done things like pick up the smaller dog, or the least aggressive one, threaten the aggressor (most of the time there is one that starts the fight). Dog off leash (like in a dog park) fighting can sometimes be hard to get our hands on because they will be moving around quite quickly at times. When we find a dog on its back getting beat up by the dog on top, we need to get (and does not matter whose dog it is or who started the fight) this stopped quickly, as this is when a lot of damage can happen in a very short time. Getting the dog on top off will most of the time allow the bottom dog to “escape.” This is not always the case as sometimes the bottom dog will want some payback. The best we can do is separate and keep the dogs separated.

Another example I use often (one that has happened to me many times) is I have been on walks, runs, and hikes with my dog on leash when she has been pursued, attacked, and or threatened by an off-leash, out-of-control dog. Oftentimes there is a human nearby screaming like a maniac (and not helping). In these cases (luckily) my dog has not been physically grabbed, because I always put myself between her and the other dog(s). Sometimes the strange dog is just curious or playful and sometimes aggressive. Either way, I stay between them just in case. I have at times picked her up as well to keep them separated…. and yes, I have been bitten using this method, so be careful. Speaking for myself, I would rather take the chance or the bite than let my dog get bitten.

Jeff Franklin is owner of Cobra Canine and has worked with over 10,000 pet dogs and families. He gives dogs and their owners a “new leash on life” and turns pets with behavioral issues into family assets. He has also trained hundreds of dogs for police and special operations, such as SWAT and U.S. military units. To learn more, visit https://cobracanine.com/.

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