You probably think that everyone loves the bright lights and fun celebrations of the 4th of July, but your dog might beg to differ. The loud noises, strange smells, and blinding lights are pretty scary for our dogs. But don't fret because there are plenty of things you can do to calm your dog during all of the chaos of independence day — and keep them safe in the process.
Dog anxiety during 4th of July fireworks displays
For your dog, the loud noises of the fireworks sound like explosions. In addition, the sulfurous smells and bright lights of the fireworks displays can be overwhelming. Plus, their sense of hearing is even better than yours, which is why many dogs suffer from noise phobias. Your dog doesn't understand what is going on, and unfortunately, you also can't explain to them that it's all in good fun. To calm your dog, it's best to establish a safe place in your home for them to escape to and use some calming aids.
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Desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks
To prepare your dog in advance, play a recording of fireworks sounds at a low volume for a few minutes at a time, about a week before the festivities. Or try playing fireworks on your TV to desensitize them to the sights and sounds. During these sessions, give your dog treats and praise them for their good, calm behavior. Increase the volume of the recording for each successive session.
Create a safe space for your dog
Before Independence Day arrives, create a safe space for your dog to escape to during the fireworks. This could be somewhere as simple as their crate or a spare bedroom. Ensure that the crate or room has some yummy food for them to eat and water to drink. You'll also want to teach your dog to go to this place on cue so you can get him there quickly prior to the start of the fireworks. Say "go to your place," lead them to the spot, and reward them with a treat. Repeat this until they go there on their own.
Tire your dog out a few hours before the fireworks
Prior to the start of the fireworks, take your dog out for a nice long walk. This will help your dog release any nervous energy they have. Remember, a tired dog is a calm dog. Do this a few hours before the fireworks just in case any neighbors decide to use fireworks in your area that could spook your dog during the walk.
Aides to keep your dog calm during fireworks
If possible, visit your veterinarian prior to an anxiety-provoking event like 4th of July to ask how best to support your dog. They can help ensure your dog is on a diet that helps them feel their best, and maybe even suggest a diet that includes ingredients thought to help calm dogs. For very anxious dogs, your veterinarian may recommend prescription medication that can help keep them calm during stressful events.
You can also try using various calming aides to lessen your dog's anxiety. There are lots of options, including calming chews and dog pheromone sprays. Different options may or may not work for different dogs. You can talk to your vet about these as well.
If your dog tolerates them, anxiety vests such as the ThunderShirt are easy to put on your dog prior to stressful events like fireworks and thunderstorms.
Have a safe place for your dog when the fireworks start
Fasten a Thundershirt or another type of anxiety vest around your dog to instantly calm them. Tell your dog to go to their safe place. Confine them during the festivities with their favorite chew toy filled with something yummy like peanut butter or cream cheese. Play some white noise or calming classical music near their safe space — to block out the loud sounds of the fireworks. Most importantly, reassure them that everything is fine by petting them and talking to them in a soothing voice.
Prevent your dog from escaping during the 4th of July
When dogs get spooked by the sounds of fireworks, they could end up escaping your yard, even if it's fenced. That's why it's important to keep your dog indoors, especially if you are having a barbecue — where your dog could get hurt while trying to sneak a tasty snack. However, if your dog does escape, prepare for that by outfitting him with a collar and ID tags containing all of your current contact information. In addition, ensure that your dog is microchipped by your veterinarian and register the microchip with your information.
Keeping dogs calm during New Years noise
July 4th is not the only holiday where fireworks or other noise is a problem for animals. New Years is another time when people set off fireworks or use noisemakers. Luckily, the same strategies apply for this holiday as well. Try some desensitizing techniques, take your dog for an extra long walk, and prepare a safe and cozy place for them to hide out in your home. Importantly, prevent escape by avoiding opening doors if possible, because scared dogs can become lost dogs.
The bottom line
Fireworks displays are pretty scary for dogs, but by desensitizing your dog to the sounds prior to Independence Day, they won't be as frightened when they hear them. Fireworks and other noise makers are common on New Years too, so these same techniques can apply to that holiday as well. Calming dog foods, chews, and anxiety vests do a good job of soothing your dog when the festivities start, as will a good long walk earlier in the day. Having a safe space set up for your dog in advance ensures that they'll be secure while the sound of fireworks or other noise happens. No matter how prepared you are, always keep your dog's contact information up-to-date. Their ID tags and microchip should be updated — in case they become spooked and escape.