4th Of July Training Tips
Fourth of July is just around the corner, and this means fireworks are too. Did you know more pets are lost on the Fourth of July holiday than any other time of the year? Grandma Lucy’s has teamed up with our partners at Little Angels Service Dogs to bring you tips on how to keep your pets safe, and how to prepare your pet for the festivities.
Little Angels Service Dogs is a 501c3 non-profit founded in 2006. Grandma Lucy’s is a proud partner and sponsor of Little Angels Service Dogs and the life-changing work they do. Little Angels trains and places service dogs to assist recipients with autism, hearing impairment, mobility issues, seizure alert, and psychiatric issues. All service dogs go through a three-phase training process to ensure they are ready for anything!
We sat down with Executive Director of Little Angels Service Dogs, Josh Drew, to learn more about Little Angels’ training process and to share tips to help prepare your pup for Fourth of July. Try these tips to help keep your pet safe and to build their confidence with anything- even fireworks!
Photo credit: @peanutlovesbutter
Q: What training methods do you use when working with your dogs around loud noises like fireworks?
A: For our service dogs, the key is starting them super early around loud noises! Our method for this is utilizing a speaker to play noises like thunder, fireworks and other loud noises when they are newborn puppies with mom. We do it around feeding time or with treats so that they immediately start to associate the loud noises with a positive!
Q: Can a dog still pass and become a service dog if it is afraid of fireworks?
A: If a dog has an isolated fear of something like fireworks, then generally it can still become a service dog. We would specifically work with the recipient on how to help the dog through this fear and start trying to develop it into a positive. If the dog is very fearful of loud noises overall then it may not make it as a service dog. That’s when you start to run into issues like the dog being spooked by a truck backfiring in public. At that point, the recipient is trying to comfort the dog rather than the other way around.
Q: What tips do you have for people working with their own pets to get comfortable around loud noises?
A: The key here is to start small and work up to the real thing. The general idea is [to] make loud noises a positive association; whether through treats, meals or play. Starting as we do, with noises on a speaker where you control the volume is much easier to work with than trying to condition to actual fireworks, then from the get-go.
Q: Do you have any July Fourth tips specifically for dogs that are afraid of fireworks?
A: These tips come directly from our founder and director of training, Katie Gonzalez. Her advice is to crate your dog early in the day with a blanket draped over the crate. This creates more of a secure, den-like feeling for the dog. Then, using a speaker, play really loud music in the room. Start long before the fireworks [begin] and continue through the fireworks happening. This is one of the easiest ways to desensitize and comfort them in the process.
Q: What recommendations do you have for new puppies and their parents during their first Fourth of July?
A: A combination of all of this would be ideal for a dog's first Fourth of July! Start working with your puppy on loud noises as soon as possible. If your puppy doesn’t already like their crate, then start training that immediately! Using a crate as a positive for dogs is extremely important [throughout] the training process, but especially in this specific scenario. Work the dog in the crate with food and feed all of their meals there. Never use the crate as a form of correction or punishment. This will quickly teach your dog that it’s a positive place and their den; then you will be prepared for Katie’s tip.
We would like to give a special thank you to Josh Drew, Executive director of Little Angels Service Dogs, for always answering our questions and sharing his personal tips and tricks he uses when training service dogs. Grandma Lucy’s recently had the opportunity to visit Little Angels Ranch in San Diego, California, where we met all the puppies currently in training and spoiled them with copious amounts of treats! We would also like to thank Stephanie, Jen, and all the staff of Little Angels for giving us a tour of the facility, showing us training demonstrations, and helping us capture the perfect puppy pictures!