5 Tips to Keep Your Dog Calm and Safe During Fireworks

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I was going to wait until closer to July 4th to write about this, since most pets run away around that time of year more than any other. But with Memorial Day weekend upon us—not to mention my crazy neighbors that look for any excuse to set off fireworks—I figured there was no better time than the present.

Over the years, Emma has gone from ignoring fireworks as a puppy to being absolutely terrified as an adult dog. In the last few years, though, she’s gotten much better in dealing with the loud sounds. However, she’s far from ignoring them, as she once did.

Unlike hunting dogs, most dogs have not been desensitized to loud noises. Most likely, your canine companion will not be a fan of the fireworks and will need some extra comforting, as well.

img_8152When dogs hear fireworks, they experience internally something similar to what we do when we are surprised by a sudden loud noise—a rush of adrenaline and increase in heart rate. Now, as humans, we are quick to realize the sudden noise is nothing to worry about. But dogs don’t grasp that same concept.

Whether this is the first time or the hundredth time your dog will be exposed to fireworks, here are a few things that will help keep her calm and safe during the celebrations:

  1. Exercise your dog earlier in the day. Go for long walks and give her extra play time. That way, she will be tired and in a calmer state when the fireworks begin.
  2. This is a no-brainer but keep your dog inside during the fireworks. And make sure you or another human is there to offer comfort. Dogs should not be alone during fireworks. If it’s hot out, crank up the AC.
  3. Create a safe space. Sometimes, dogs will want to hide under the bed or curl up in their crate when they are afraid. Give them access to small, cozy places and put a blanket or shirt that you wore earlier in the day next to them, so they have your scent close. A chew toy is also a good way to keep them busy and distracted.
  4. Stay calm. If your dog is anything like mine during fireworks, she will probably pant, pace and whine. I know that if I hold Emma in my arms, it helps her calm down quicker. During this time, I’ll play white noise on the Sonos with the volume up to drown out the fireworks. This combo works best for Emma.
  5. Be sure your dog is wearing current ID tags and is microchipped in case she gets spooked and runs off unexpectedly. That way, if anyone finds her, you’ll be sure to get a call as to her location.

Hopefully, your neighbors aren’t like mine and won’t set off too many fireworks this weekend! With all the dogs living in my neighborhood, you would think they would be more considerate to those little canine ears, right?!

Do you do anything special to help your pet get through the fireworks? I’d love to hear about it.

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend!

Doggy Day Trips—Old Westbury Gardens

img_7860Old Westbury Gardens has always been my absolute favorite escape on Long Island. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax and enjoy nature. As a child, I would go off exploring all that the Gardens has to offer—the thatched cottage, East Lake, the Walled Garden, nature paths and everything else in between—pretending that I lived in Westbury House and the gardens were all mine! It almost felt like I stepped back time, especially when walking through the house.

As the years passed, my love for Old Westbury Gardens grew. Every weekend, my mom and I would take a couple of lawn chairs, pack a picnic and our favorite books and spend an entire day under the shade of one of the massive breezy beech trees or find the perfect spot somewhere near the lake.

No matter the season, there’s always plenty to enjoy—from chamber music in the Red Ballroom and the summer Picnic Pops concerts to yoga on the lawn and members-only events and more. Some of my favorite memories have been from Old Westbury Gardens.

When Emma arrived on the scene, my mom and I felt guilty we couldn’t bring her to enjoy our favorite getaway. Then, shortly thereafter, we were excited to discover the Gardens began a new tradition—Dog Days! Twice a year, visitors are allowed to bring their canine companions to walk the gardens, do some canine shopping, participate in fun activities, meet animal rescue groups, and more.

Last month, when I took Emma to the first Dog Days weekend of 2018, it was a bit more crowded than usual, as they were undergoing landscaping renovations. Portions of the Gardens were closed; but it didn’t deter us from having a fun time. We had perfect weather, which always helps to add to the joy of the day. (Dog Day Festival Weekends are usually slated for spring (April) and fall (Sept/Oct), so be sure to check their calendar of events.)

Regardless of whether you have a dog or not, spending a day at the Gardens is certainly worth the trip. There are year-round activities; and if you become a member, you’ll receive extra perks, discounts and members-only events. Old Westbury Gardens is easily accessible by both Northern State Parkway and the LIE (I-495).

Let me know if you visit—or attend the next Dog Days! Emma and I will be on the lookout for you.

Doggy Day Trips: Long Island’s Sands Point Preserve

img_7565Even though Long Island was hit with a few snow storms since the official beginning of “spring,” I took advantage of a nice day last weekend to take Emma on a day trip. (Thankfully, all the snow melted quickly.) When the weather is nice, we both love being outdoors. One of our favorite places to visit is dog-friendly Sands Point Preserve on the original Guggenheim Estate.

The Preserve has six hiking trails that start at a quarter-mile, or you can loop all the trails together and walk for several miles. On our favorite trail, there’s a spot that overlooks the beach and the Long Island Sound. It’s the perfect spot for a photo on a sunny day.

Some of the trails are not shaded, so if you go in warmer months, be sure to go first thing in the morning and take plenty of water for your dog. (If hiking isn’t your thing and you want to leave your pooch home, the Preserve does have other year-round activities and events.)

We visit the Preserve year-round, and each time we go, the terrain can be different—dry, muddy, snowy, icy, depending on the previous day’s (or week’s) weather. I usually stay away from the trails after it has just rained or snowed. That can make for messy or dangerous conditions.

The Preserve is located on the North Shore of Long Island in Nassau County and is fairly easy to get to off the LIE (I-495) or Northern State Parkway. It costs $10 for the day and is worth every cent.

Do you have a favorite spot to hike with your dog?

Doggy Day Trips: North Hempstead Beach Park

fullsizeoutput_34acBefore New York’s fourth Nor’easter hit this week (and here I thought spring arrived), I took Emma over to North Hempstead Beach Park, formerly Bar Beach. It has a special meaning for me—it’s the place where my parents met a bazillion years ago—but has become a place that I love to go with Emma since they now allow dogs!

The day that we went, it was extremely windy, but we got to enjoy a long walk back and forth on the promenade, breathe in the salty, sea air and soak in the warm sun, thanks to the cloudless blue skies. Emma and I love the cold, but the 20-degree wind chills were enough to send us home after an hour!

BarBeach2018This park is one of our year-round favorites, especially in cooler months when there aren’t many people there—and we don’t have to worry about the scorching weather. But because it’s right there on the water, there’s not a lot of shade on the promenade. So, if you go in warmer months, be sure to go first thing in the morning or at dusk so the concrete is cooler for your dog’s paws. They have a shaded picnic area, which can be fun in warmer months; but it does get crowded.

The park is free to enter in the off-season, and a season pass (Memorial Day through Labor Day) will cost you $50.

When Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like Corn Chips

img_7340.jpgI was on the phone recently with a friend who mentioned that, although she’d just given her dog a bath, his paws smelled like Fritos! I knew all too well what she was talking about. From time to time, Emma gets that same smell.

The corn chips (or Fritos) smell has to do with yeast and bacteria on your dog’s paws. Pseudomonas or proteus are types of natural bacteria that make their way into the crevices of the paws. This happens when you take your dog outside and whatever is on the street or grass gets stuck on the paws. Like humans, dogs sweat. But they sweat through their paws. So, sometimes when they sweat, the moisture becomes trapped in the fuzz between their foot pads, causing the smell.

To keep the smell to a minimum, be sure to trim the fuzz between your dog’s foot pads, then clean and dry properly. Whenever you come in from outside, wipe your dog’s paws thoroughly. I always keep a pack of paw wipes at the door, so before I let Emma back in the house, she gets her paws (and bum) wiped.

Keep in mind, dogs lick their paws. It’s their way of cleaning themselves. But if you notice the excessive chewing, licking and nibbling, there may be something else going on with your fur baby. He or she might actually be allergic to something and you may want to schedule a visit to the vet.

Healthy Treats for Your Dog

When Emma first came into the family, she was a tiny four-pound bundle of white fluff. I wanted to be a good pet-parent and feed her a healthy diet, so she would live longer. But I didn’t want this to be limited to just her meals; I wanted her to have healthy snacks, as well.

Considering I’m a healthy eater, I’ve made sure my dog is, too. Emma does not get any “junk food,” table scraps (that weren’t prepared with her in mind – no salt, additives, etc.) or dairy (dairy is actually not good for some dogs). She eats a healthy diet of grain-free kibble with a dollop of grain-free soft food. And, if she gets any extra treats, I make sure to reduce her meals slightly so that she maintains her weight and doesn’t gain. (The more overweight your dog is, the shorter their lifespan.)

While she does enjoy her “people food” treats, she does get her usual chewy provided by the vet to help keep tartar at bay and her teeth strong.

Here are some of Emma’s favorite goodies, which happen to be super healthy—and which you can share with your fur baby, too.

Fruit: Since Emma has nixed bananas from her diet, she does love a good apple. Whenever I have one as a snack, I cut up a slice for her so we can enjoy it together. Apples have antioxidants and are loaded with vitamin C. In the summer, we switch to watermelon (seedless, of course), which has plenty of lycopene, vitamins A, B-6 and C.

Veggies: I’m a veggie lover (as I don’t eat meat), and so, I share my love of veggies with Emma. She loves roasted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts, which have plenty of vitamins A, B1, B6 and K, folate, fiber and potassium. Sweet potatoes are the bomb! They’re a good source of vitamins A, B-6, C and E, not to mention calcium and iron.

Peanut Butter: I’ve never met a dog who doesn’t love peanut butter. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and has vitamins B and E and niacin. I buy the no-sugar, no-salt added, all natural kind. This is the best for dogs. And, a little goes a long way. A small dollop will keep Emma licking her chops for ages.

Salmon: This is one of the best things you can feed your dog as it is full of Omega-3 fatty acids. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and is good to keep the joints supple. When Emma goes to agility class, dried salmon treats are her reward. So even if she doesn’t get grilled salmon (yes, I make her grilled salmon on Sundays), she still gets the benefits from the treats.

What does your dog like to eat?

Man’s Best Friend is Good for the Soul—and the Body!

The day that I brought Emma home from the breeder changed my life. She was a tiny little ball of white fluff that loved to nuzzle my neck and get lots of cuddles, which she still loves to do—along with getting plenty of belly rubs.

At that time, I was going through a very bad period of depression, and once she joined the household, life became a bit more gratifying with her at my side. After all, I had a puppy to walk (and boy, does she love to walk!), to feed and to tend to. There was hardly time to succumb to depression. For those of you who have/had puppies, you know that for the first 6-8 months, you’re on the go. Nonstop.

Emma has been by my side for many years, and has helped me navigate through depression, anxiety and grief, while keeping me active and motivated.

Not surprising, there are a majority of studies that show the physical, emotional and social benefits of having a canine companion. Here are just a few:

Reduce heart disease. A recent study shows that having a canine companion is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease (lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels).

Lower stress. Having a fur baby can help lower anxiety and blood pressure, reducing the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Think about it. You’re sitting on the couch, giving belly rubs to a cute little fur ball who wants nothing more to snuggle and be pet. It turns us to mush, right?

Weight loss. If you have a dog, you better love to walk—and walk a lot. Ever since I brought Emma home, she’s been a walker. I know we were meant for each other because, I too, love to walk and hike and be outdoors. Our daily routine consists of at least 3 miles—sometimes more in cooler weather, and less in the summer. But we make up for it with her agility classes, which usually give me a run for my money, too!

Social life. Before I brought Emma home, I didn’t know all of my neighbors that well. But once Emma was on the scene, all that changed. Neighbors with dogs would come around and we would share stories about our fur babies’ latest antics. Not only that, but whenever I’m out and about with Emma, I’m guaranteed to be stopped by someone who loves dogs. It’s easy to strike up a conversation when you’re accompanied by a great conversation starter. (Read: single peeps, having a dog is great for getting dates!)

If you’re thinking about getting a dog, stop thinking about it and do it! You won’t regret it. And if you are already a pet-parent like me, then you know what a bundle of joy these four-legged fur babies can be.