It goes without saying that dogs and fireworks don’t mix well. As July 4th approaches, it’s a good idea to start thinking of ways to make your best friend more comfortable during the evening hours. Your dog’s hearing can be up to ten times more acute than yours, so the loud bangs, whistles and screams that may be fun for you, are not anywhere near pleasant for your dog.
I currently have three rescue dogs and one of my pups is sure the world is ending every 4th of July. We must take extra care and precautions to keep her safe and secure. One year we even found her in the toilet. We think she may have been trying to climb to the top of the toilet in an attempt to be perched up high. From that moment, we knew we would need to keep her physically with us for the following year’s celebration; however, we were not going to give up on July 4th all together. We make sure our plans are dog friendly so she can come along. I think you will appreciate this picture of her and I suited up and ready for her version of the end of the world.
I always recommend keeping in mind that your dog has no idea what’s going on. You know that this is all meant to be fun and will be over by midnight (unless you have those neighbors that keep lighting off fireworks days after 4th of July) but dogs have no ability to anticipate the future. Your dog may not be peachy keen, but ways to comfort them while still being able to enjoy the holiday is the balancing trick.
Here are a few things to try if you have an anxious dog.
1. It’s important that we first start with ways to decrease YOUR anxiety. The best way to do this is make sure your dog has their collar and ID tags on and their microchip is registered. Every year hundreds of frightened dogs escape the mayhem and run as far away as they can. Make sure that if the worst happens (and we sincerely hope it doesn’t) your best friend can be brought home quickly. Recommended non profit registry: https://www.foundanimals.org/microchip-registry/owners
2. Prepare, exercise is key; Spend plenty of one-on-one time together before the fireworks begin. Give them plenty of exercise, like a strenuous game of catch, a long walk (or run), or an afternoon of tug-o-war. Not only will a tired dog be less anxious but if you have to leave them home while you go see the fireworks, they won’t feel as much resentment because they have had ample time with you.
3: Make sure your dog has been allowed to poop and pee plenty before nighttime. Do you really want to be out walking your nervous four legged family member after dark during the fireworks?
4: Cuddle Time: It is ok that your first reaction is to want to cuddle with your dog. But be careful not to go too far. Don’t pat or cuddle your dog excessively when he/she is showing signs of fear.This could reward fearful behavior, making it more likely for them to repeat that behavior. Just act normally, stay calm and talk to them in a relaxed tone of voice.
5: FOOD: Just like us, it can be comforting for your dog to have a full belly. Dependent on your dog’s diet, a full belly of carbs can work wonders in helping your dog feel calm. Just as with humans the carbohydrates will help your dog feel full and sleepy. Even if your dog is on a carb free diet or you limit carbs, this could be considered a treat that and will serve as comfort for your dog. Oh and before I forget…I know we usually equate alcohol to relaxation but keep the chardonnay in your glass not his bowl, alcohol is not good for dogs!
6. Use an all-natural herbal remedy to help your dog relax. I recommend a natural calming aid made in the USA which you can give about 30 minutes before the fireworks begin. It won’t put your dog to sleep but the natural inhibitory neurotransmitter will help to make your dog less anxious and more capable of managing the stress of all that noise. I also like this product because it is a soft chew versus a pill. My dogs are magicians when it comes to not taking the pill no matter what treat I hide it in. Haha!
7. The best long term solution to noise phobias is desensitization. This is basically retraining your dog so they are relaxed during thunderstorms, firework displays or other noisy situations. You can find online tutorials on this. Caution: Don’t go extreme on this. I always recommend working with an expert on this.
9. Keep your dog indoors: Even if they are an outdoor dog, consider bringing them indoors so they don’t break out of your yard trying to get away from the noise. Also, if they are crate trained, they will likely be happier feel more secure there.
10. Keep your dog with you: This may seem counter to a lot of advice given to crate your dog or keep them in the house. But you know your dog and know if they would be more comfortable with you during the fireworks. For small dogs a backpack is a big favorite of mine. Here's the one that I use for one of my small dogs.
If you have tried all of these tips and nothing seems to work or your dog’s behavior seems extreme, keep in mind it is best to discuss this with your vet.
Remember no dog likes fireworks and as pet parent you can make a big difference in your dog’s life by putting in place some small measures like the ones mentioned above. This way your whole family has the kind of Fourth of July they’ll enjoy and remember for years to come!
Rocky Kanaka is an Emmy nominated host and creator of The CW’s SAVE our SHELTER in addition to pet dad to multiple rescue dogs. Rocky also has a passion cooking and baking for dogs and is the founder of TheDogBakery.com