For us, the 4th of July fireworks are an exciting, nostalgic summer celebration. For our dogs, on the other hand, fireworks can be incredibly scary and stressful.
Did you know that in the United States, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters? This is because so many pets bolt from their homes in a panic-induced attempt to escape those loud, bright explosions.
Keep reading for some expert tips to keep your dog safe, calm, and comfortable this Independence Day.
Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
While we may love our summer vacations, summer can bring about lots of unpredictable changes in routine, which can be stressful for our pets. Dogs are creatures of habit—they love routines, and being able to predict exactly what will happen next.
Fireworks, unfortunately, are pretty much the exact opposite of “predictable.” With those sudden bursts of light, booming sounds, and unfamiliar smells, it’s no surprise that fireworks can be a distressing experience for our pets.
Plus, if you enjoy hosting 4th of July BBQs, the hustle and bustle of visitors coming in and out of the house can feel chaotic for any anxious dog.
Signs Your Dog is Stressed
From fireworks to thunderstorms and everything in between, it’s important to be mindful of our pets’ stress and anxiety levels, from subtle to severe.
Common signs of stress in dogs include:
- Yawning, drooling, or licking lips
- Whining or barking
- Trembling, shaking, or cowering
- Running away (or making attempts to escape)
- Bathroom accidents
- Destructive behaviors such as chewing or digging
That said, every dog is different; not every dog experiences stress and anxiety in the same way. You know your dog best, and having a good understanding of his typical behaviors will better equip you to pick up on signs of stress and anxiety.
Planning Ahead for Fireworks
Whether you’re preparing for the 4th of July, New Year’s Eve, or another fireworks-related event, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and help your dog get somewhat acclimated to what’s coming.
Desensitization is something you can work on year-round. During a time when your pup is feeling relaxed and happy, play a video of fireworks and have a fun play session. Over time, he’ll start to develop a positive (or at least neutral) association with the sound of fireworks. If the sound is still too jarring, start at a low volume and gradually increase the sound as he becomes more comfortable.
Before the day of the event, make sure your dog’s collar ID tag is up to date. Microchips are especially helpful as an added precaution, too.
Depending on the severity of your dog’s anxiety, you may also want to talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medications. Be sure to do this well in advance, as you don’t want to test out a new medication on the same day as fireworks—if your dog experiences side effects, that will just add to the stress.
Prepare a calm, quiet safe space for your dog, preferably a spot in the house that he already associates with comfort. Whether it’s a crate or an entire room in the house, make sure it’s a place where your pup feels secure rather than confined.
As the adage goes, a tired dog is a happy dog. Help your pup get rid of some of his pent-up energy by going for an especially long walk during the day before the fireworks. If you wear him out enough, he may even get lucky and sleep through the entire ordeal!
Finally, check that all of your doors and windows are closed, or that your dog is secured if you have guests coming in and out of the house. Walk around the perimeter of your yard and fence, checking for any openings where your dog could potentially escape.
Calming Your Anxious Dog During Fireworks
Once the fireworks are underway, your priority should be keeping your dog calm and safe. If possible, stay home with your dog until the fireworks are done.
While you’re home with your dog, do the following:
Distract your dog with treats, toys, and familiar commands.
Resist the urge to coddle your dog, as this may confirm his suspicions that the fireworks are, in fact, scary. Calmly reassure him instead.
Provide plenty of comfy bedding, or even a snug t-shirt or blanket wrap.
Turn on the TV, music, or a white noise machine (just make sure the extra sound doesn’t add to your dog’s stress).
Close the curtains, or even try blackout curtains.
Try relaxing pheromone diffusers.
- Give your dog Pet Honesty’s Calming Hemp Chews. These gentle, non-sedating soft chews are made of a blend of naturally relaxing herbs to calm and soothe your anxious dog.
Please NEVER punish your dog for his anxiety-induced behavior, such as bathroom accidents in the house—this will only make the situation worse.