5 Spot: Fourth of July tips for the owners of patriotic pups


Fireworks, barbecues and outdoor fun go hand in hand with Independence Day, but your dog may not be having as good a time as you are. The loud noises and change in routine can upset your four-legged friend.

The sound of fireworks commonly causes dogs to panic and run away. The American Kennel Club offers the following tips to help both dogs and humans have a happy and safe Fourth of July:

* Safety first. Even though you enjoy your dog’s company, it is safer to keep your dog at home during Fourth of July celebrations instead of bringing him to your friend’s party. Being outside in a new environment with the loud noises can increase his anxiety levels. Keep him in the house where he is comfortable rather than in your yard. He will be a lot happier indoors and not tempted to leap over a fence to try to find you.

* Avoid sharing the scraps. While tempting to our pets, human food is not for dogs. A sudden change to your dog’s diet can cause an upset stomach. Additionally, certain foods like grapes, onions, raisins and avocados can be toxic.

* Be sound sensitive. Fireworks may be pretty, but they are very loud, and the noise can be extremely scary for your dog. Once the displays get started, keep him in a room where he is relaxed. Block outside sights and sounds as much as possible by lowering the blinds and turning on the television.

* Keep his collar on. Proper identification is extremely important in case your dog gets loose. Make sure to keep his ID tag’s contact information up to date and consider having him microchipped so he can always be identified and located in the event your dog gets lost.

— American Kennel Club

Save your skin with sunscreenSunscreen may be big business, with sales topping $1 billion last year, but not nearly enough of us seem to buy into its importance, says Consumer Reports. More than half of the respondents in a new Consumer Reports survey say they usually skip sunscreen.

But knowing the facts can save your birthday suit — and possibly your life.

1. You’re never too old to start wearing sunscreen. By age 40, you’ve racked up only half of your lifetime dose of UV rays; by age 60, just 74 percent. And for those older than 50, being in the sun sans protection can be particularly dangerous.

2. Covering up should be your first priority. Research shows that people who rely on sunscreens alone tend to burn more than those who stay in the shade and wear long sleeves. Avoid the sun or stay in the shade when the sun is the strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and dress right for the occasion. Wear a hat and clothing that’s made from tightly woven fabric.

3. Sunscreen can give you a false sense of security. It’s a common misconception that if you’re wearing sunscreen, you can stay in the sun for as long as you like. Some studies show an association between sunscreen use and an increased risk of skin cancer, probably because users felt more protected and increased their sun time — often without reapplying. Sunscreen is protective, but it’s not a magic bullet.

4. A little dab won’t do ya. You should apply about 2 tablespoons for face and body. It’s important to reapply every two hours when you’re out in the sun; even very high-SPF sunscreens lose their effectiveness after that.

5. There are sunscreen safety rules. The sunscreens in sprays can protect your skin as well as lotions. But they aren’t right for everyone. Sprays are flammable, so you shouldn’t use them if you’ll be near an open flame, such as a grill. The product can be inhaled, so don’t apply it directly to your face; spray into your hand, then rub in the sunscreen. Because of those concerns, Consumer Reports recommends not using sprays on kids.

— Consumer Reports

Bug-proof your summerDeet. Yard foggers. Bug zappers. In the quest for an insect-free summer, Americans turn to a bevy of products that companies promise will repel, trap, kill or otherwise neutralize pests, notes Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports’ tests over the years have found that some products, especially chemical-based insect repellents, can help keep away ticks and mosquitoes. But its safety experts also worry about the risks they may pose to people and the environment.

Consumer Reports offers these steps you can take to control the pests.

* Mosquitoes. Manufacturers now sell mosquito traps that use fans, electric grids or adhesive pads to capture and kill mosquitoes. The devices do kill some of them, but it’s unclear whether that translates into a noticeable reduction in the mosquito population, Even less impressive are devices that use light, sound or smell to lure mosquitoes.

Consumer Reports’ safety experts also caution against using yard foggers, which spray repellent from a can. You might inhale the pesticides, including some compounds that might disrupt your hormone system and that have been linked to neurological, developmental and other health problems.

You’re best off doing things that discourage mosquitoes from breeding in the first place. Keep your yard free of containers filled with water. Clear away ivy and decaying leaves, because mosquitoes like cool, dark places. Use LED or yellow lights on your porch and around your house, and plug in a fan when on your deck. Citronella, in candles or in the oil in tiki torches, is a mild repellent.

* Ticks. They like tall grass and lots of shade. So keep your lawn mowed, remove leaves and other debris and try to let as much sun into your yard as possible. Consider putting up a fence around your property to keep out deer and other large animals that can carry ticks. And don’t forget to check your pets for ticks after they have been romping in the yard.

* Stinging insects. Keep garbage cans and picnic food covered, because bees love discarded food. Most bees and wasps will leave you alone if you don’t bother them, so don’t swat at them. Nests should be removed only if they are in high-traffic areas.

— Consumer Reports

Smart and easy ways to save money* Talk with your human resource manager about automatically sending part of your paycheck to a savings account.

* Don’t pay ATM fees. Get cash back from retailers when you use your debit charge to avoid bank fees.

* Be in style on a budget. Look to Groupon or Living Social for great deals at local hair and nail salons. Or, if you are really brave, look for local beauty schools that offer free services.

* Pay less for medication. Next time you get a prescription, ask your health-care provider for a 90-day supply. This can be cheaper, especially if you pay a co-pay for your prescriptions. Ask for a generic alternative.

* Unplug devices and appliances when not in use. Called “phantom power,” there is energy used even if the item is turned off. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans have anywhere between 20 and 40 devices using phantom power right now in their homes. Make it easy with a surge protector.

* When doing laundry, think about it before you put it in the hamper. Does it really need to be laundered? Can you use cold water? Remember when buying clothes to avoid “dry clean only” items. Skip the dyer and try hanging items to dry.

* Keep your car well maintained with regular maintenance. Be sure tires are properly inflated and that your car is not loaded down with extra items. An extra 100 pounds can increase your fuel bill by 2 percent.

* At the grocery store, be SMART:

S — Skip the cart and select a basket.

M — Make a list and avoid spontaneous purchases.

A — Arrange your pantry and refrigerator in an organized way so you can determine food purchases.

R — Research coupon inserts, savings websites and coupon sites to find coupons on items that you need.

T — Take your coupon book with you just in case you find a hidden deal, but do not buy items just because you have a coupon.

— Tara McAlister, The Charlotte Observer

Will you take a summer vacation? Many won’tAmericans are feeling frugal about summer vacation plans.

Only 44 percent of us will take a vacation this summer — and most of those who do will use savings to pay for it, not charge the trip on a credit card, according to a survey of 1,003 adults released last month by CreditCards.com.

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans planning a summer trip will pay as they go. Only 15 percent will charge it, and only 13 percent will use credit card rewards points or miles for the trip.

These frugal numbers point to a continued wariness among Americans to go into debt or overspend, according to the company’s senior industry analyst, Matt Schultz. Too many people were burned in the great recession of 2008. Now they “want nothing to do with debt,” he said.

The survey, which has a 3.6 percent margin of error, also showed that millennials were the least likely to charge a trip on a credit card and retirees were most likely. Most of those charging their vacations — 67 percent — said they would pay it off in a month or less. Only 11 percent said it would take them 4 months or more to pay off.

Midwesterners were the most frugal, with 76 percent planning to pay off their summer trip in a month or less.

— Ellen Creager, Detroit Free Press