Happy June, everyone! It is time for our monthly challenge, and you may have noticed that we’re changing things up. 😀
We’ve been doing monthly Training Challenges for years, and we’ve decided to switch the focus to monthly Enrichment Challenges! We’re going to focus on meeting your needs and your pet’s needs while crafting sustainable lives together. Training (teaching, learning, and improving skills) can facilitate our enrichment plan, but enrichment is about more than just teaching and learning!
Enrichment means meeting all of an animal’s physical, mental, and emotional needs in order to empower them to perform species-typical behaviors in healthy, safe, and appropriate ways.
Sometimes we need to teach our pet a new skill in order for them to meet their needs (see Flight Training as an example!), sometimes we need to adjust the environment to reduce trigger stacking, sometimes we need to find some new activities to tap into our pet’s species-typical behaviors. You and your pet’s needs are as unique as you are, so each plan is going to be individualized to your environment, your life, and your situation.
So, each month you can expect a challenge that will help you and your pet curate your plans to better meet your needs.
And this month, with the 4th of July only a month away, we’re focusing on preparing for the 4th of July, because it is a holiday that is very challenging for a lot of pets, and even their people!
For our international readers, the 4th of July is often accompanied by large gatherings of friends and family, lots of outdoor activities, and oodles and oodles of fireworks. While the 4th of July may not be relevant to you, you may have other holidays that fit that bill!
As I mentioned before, each person’s plan is going to be different given their situation, their pet, and their location, so I’m going to share some overarching tips to help you start your preparation.
Tip #1: Start Preparing Now
Like, for real. Start preparing now. Especially if you already know that your pet struggles on this holiday. And honestly, start preparing for next year now. Even if your pet hasn’t had issues in the past, being prepared can help you prevent issues in the future. I know that you may be like me and think, “But I have almost a whole month!”. That time will go faster than you expect, and some of these things are time sensitive!
Tip #2: Use the Past to Inform the Now
Whether this is your first 4th with your pet, or your 10th, we can use past years as a starting point. That also means that you can use this year to inform next year *hint hint*. It is important to keep in mind that things change, we change, our pets change. And that’s okay! It’s a part of life. But that also means that we can update your plans based on new information. So, reflect on your strategies last year and see what could be improved upon.
Did you have a medication protocol from your vet? Did it work to achieve the goals you and your vet decided upon? If it didn’t, or you are hoping for even more help, communicate that with your vet! Tell them what you did (the schedule you administered the medication, the dosage, the frequency…), the impact you saw (before, during, and after), and what you did during the event (we hid out in the basement that has no windows and is pretty quiet…).
Did you try to hunker down somewhere with your pet? Did it help? Is there a way you can make it even more comfortable for either of you? I’ve had families that knew that it was going to be a “hide out in the bathroom” night, so we make sure they had a comfortable way to sit with their pet(s)!
Did someone sneak your pet a little bit of hamburger patty leading to terrible poops for the next week? Make a plan to prevent that from happening again!
Did you learn that your pet goes absolutely bonkers for baby food? You can use that to make some foraging activities for the 4th!
Have you played around with different activities and learned that certain things are especially helpful when your pet needs to process a lot of stress? You can set aside some intentional time on the 5th, 6th, and 7th to help your pet recuperate after the chaos.
Tip #2: Contact Your Vet
If your pet has a history of challenges, contact your vet. Today. Stop reading this blog, and contact your vet. Let them know that your pet struggles on the 4th of July. Be as descriptive as possible when sharing how you know that your pet struggles (check out this podcast episode for tips on Phrasing Feedback to a Vet).
Instead of saying, “Pip HATES the 4th. What can I do?” Try something more like, “When a whistle firework goes off, Pip tries to climb on top of my head and shivers for 5 minutes. Longer if something else goes off”. Or, “When Griffey hears a big booming firework, you know, the kind that makes even the people jump, he jumps up and lets out 3-4 deep barks with this tail up and his hackles raised from the back of his skull to the middle of his tail. He’s easily redirected and turns back to us after the initial startle. He usually falls back asleep within 20 minutes.”
Contact your vet today so that they have ample time to follow up with any additional questions, they can get you in for an exam if necessary, and you all have plenty of time to send in and receive any medications that they may recommend. Don’t wait until 3 days before the 4th!
Tip #3: Make Sure Your Pet’s Microchip and Collar Tags are Up to Date
More pets go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. When the booms and whistles start going off, your pet may do everything in their power to escape. That may mean door dashing out of the front door or the fence gate, climbing fences, and yes, even breaking through windows or chewing through walls. If you have company and/or are in an unfamiliar place, utilize a harness and a leash (this is also a good idea if your pet is an escape artist already!). Additional barriers, like baby gates and xpens, can help you add layers of safety. Make sure that your pet’s microchip and collar tags are up to date so that if you do have an escapee, they can more easily make their way back to you. And, of course, make sure that they are wearing their tags and equipment on the 4th.
Tip #4: Avoid Additional Triggers
This is going to be hugely dependent on your pet! Laika’s triggers and Griffey’s triggers are very different., but here are some that many of my clients take into consideration.
Make sure that your pet has some sort of supervision to help minimize the risk of escaping (see Tip #3). This means someone (pet sitter, friend, family, yourself) stays home with your pet to make sure that they have someone that they trust there when the big scaries start happening.
If your pet has a hard time with non-family members, skip the barbecue, and keep the gathering small with only people that your pet LOVES.
Find a way to reduce the impact of the fireworks and parties around town. I have families that will leave town and take the weekend to go somewhere with strict firework bans (this typically takes a year or more of preparation though!). I have other families that have found fantastic boarding options that are away from all the hullabaloo.
Keep your pet at home with you and skip public events. All those sounds, strange smells, loud booms, and flashing lights are too much for most creatures.
This also includes avoiding additional stressors for the days leading up to and following the 4th. Stress takes time to process in our body, so try to avoid anything else that would empty your pet’s cup around the holiday.
Tip #5: Build a Safe Space for Your Pet
We are big, big, big supporters of safe spaces. It is one of those things that we discuss with nearly every family we work with. Building an area where your pet can go where they feel better, you can see them relax, and take a deep breath can help them cope with the chaos around them. Building a safe space is a big topic, so I’m going to direct you to more additional resources rather than try to do it justice here! But remember, creating a safe space takes time, so start practicing now! For thunder and firework-related challenges, I often recommend and interior room in the house that has no windows, but you may find that your pet has already claimed their safe space, and if that is the case, start there.
Tip #6: Help Your Pet When They Need It
Yes, you can comfort your pet. In fact, I recommend it. If your pet already finds you to be a source of comfort, safety, and security, then lend them a helping hand when things are hard. We’re going to make it through the hard stuff, and then once we are on the other side, we can start intentionally helping our pet gain skills and confidence for next year. Take a deep breath, provide your pet the support they need, and we’ll make it through this.
Tip #7: Be Kind to Yourself
Sound sensitivity and noise phobia and things that can develop throughout your pet’s lifetime. So, if your pet struggles this year for the first time, be kind to yourself. Sometimes, we see pets that struggle from a young age with loud sounds. Sometimes, we see that sound sensitivity is an early warning sign that something is starting to be ouchy. Sometimes, we see that, through a series of unfortunate events, the pet learned that loud sounds mean bad things. I worked with one dog that received a bite from a fly directly after a clap of thunder, and we proceeded to have Big Feels about thunder after that. Again, things change, and that’s okay. We can adapt and adjust as needed.
- Start preparing for the 4th of July, or any major holiday that has big booms! Make sure to tailor your plan to you, your pet, and your environment!
- Building a plan can be a lot, but if you’re looking for more individualized recommendations and a plan that you know you can do, we’re here to help. We’ve helped thousands of families implement plans that work for them, and our consultants have openings available!