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Dog holding American flag in mouth for fourth of July celebrations

The essentials

  • Plan for any possible celebration — Your dog’s nervous system is sensitive. Planning for fireworks displays and crowds can make a world of difference.
  • Ask your vet for tailored advice — What works for some dogs might not work for others. Asking your vet gives you the best chance possible to help your pup.
  • It’s not just the Fourth to consider — Firework season extends well beyond the Fourth in many neighborhoods. Keep extra supplies on hand to give your dog a safe space.
How to keep your dog safe on the 4th of July

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The Fourth of July is coming up, and that means a few things for you and your pet: celebration, excitement, and fireworks. Although they are beautiful to look at, fireworks can be a great source of anxiety for our four-legged friends, and looking after your dog (or cat!) during this time can be nerve-wracking. For many pets, anxiety, shakes, and skittery behavior become the norm for most of July, well after the Fourth.  If that sounds like a familiar scenario in your household, you’re not alone. We’ve put together 9 helpful tips you can consider to help you keep your dog calm and safe during the Fourth of July fireworks display.

1. Stay calm

While it can seem straightforward, your pooch likely feeds off of the energy and mood that you’re feeling. This is normal—it’s one of the strategies that dogs use to connect to us . Staying calm is the best first-line advice, especially during such a stressful and stimulating time as the Fourth of July can be for your pup.

2. Be prepared

July 4th is the number one day for lost pets in the US.  We recommend  registering with a service like FidoAlert, the Amber Alert for Pets. By having already submitted your pet’s profile to the network, you can have peace of mind that you will be contacted immediately should your pet escape during the day of celebrations. The tag’s QR code allows your pet’s rescuer to send you his or her contact information via text, so you can connect with them and be reunited with your furry friend in no time.

3. Talk to your vet

Your vet can offer personalized support when it comes to preparing your dogs for a Fourth of July event or unpredictable noise in general. Beyond medication, they can give you advice and help you to make a welcoming, safe place at home—keeping your pet as calm as possible despite the presence of light or noise.

We do want to note: When it comes to medication, don’t try to feed your dog any human medication, like Dramamine, as that can harm your dog. Instead, speak to your vet to assess your options.

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are safe for humans but toxic to dogs due to metabolism differences. Also, dogs can be more sensitive to certain doses of medications based on their weight and breed. Speak to your vet if you plan to medicate your dog.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Additional possible supportive options can include:

  • Calming treats: These can be your pup’s favorite go-to snacks, or they may have special pet-safe formulations that include CBD oil. In either case, these can be great to have on hand.
  • Pheromones: Pheromone collars and other accessories shouldn’t be overlooked, as pheromone therapy can be especially calming to your dog.
  • Natural remedies: The jury is still out when it comes to the safety of essential oils, like peppermint oil, or anything from your garden for your pet. If in doubt, speak to your vet for personalized guidance.

4. Play calming music

Going back to the distraction method, one of the best ways to stop your dog from going into freak-out mode when the fireworks are on is to play music. White noise and music — from the TV or radio — have been proven to relieve anxiety after exposure to external stressors in humans, and it’s thought that the same effect occurs in dogs. Most breeds of dog have amazing hearing, so you’re unlikely to cover up the noise completely for them, but cranking up the TV and playing something calming is likely to help.

5. Make time (for extra playtime)

The more tired out they are before the fireworks start, the more likely they are to lay down and rest as opposed to pacing around getting stressed out. Take your dog for a lovely long walk, where they can stretch their legs and relieve any stress before the fireworks begin, or engage in any other form of rough-and-tumble exercise. You can do this using their favorite toys or a pet-safe rope if your dog is into tug-of-war!

This will also mean that you’ll likely be able to avoid any fireworks, as they normally start in the early evening. That being said, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash just in case any fireworks do go off whilst you’re on your walk.

Firework stimulation sometimes causes dogs to run away, so having them on a leash for their walk minimizes that risk.

6. Desensitize your dog 

Play your pup the sound of fireworks going off on your phone or through the TV, so that they understand what the noise is. This method works best when you play them the noise days or weeks before so that they get time to adjust to the noise (you don’t want to set them off before the actual fireworks have even begun).

When you play them the noise, try to remain calm and reassure them. Once they see that you aren’t freaking out and are in control, they should adjust to the noise.

7. Create a safe space

Finding a quiet space where your dog can nestle in and get comfortable can be an amazing solution to Fourth of July scaries. If your dog loves being in their kennel, setting them up with treats and toys they love can help them feel sheltered from the loud noises from outside. You can also make sure that all windows and doors are shut, and if possible cover the windows so that no flashing lights can get through.

8. Find a friend (for your pup) 

A lot of dogs learn well by modeling—so putting your furry friend together with a (calm) friend of their own can encourage them to be calm despite the noise. It can also encourage them to keep this behavior up in the face of noise at a later time too, making it even more worthwhile to pursue puppy friendship!

9. Plan for the Fourth (specifically) 

Loud bangs, fear-mongering sounds, and loud noises are all par for the course for the  Fourth. Your dog’s nervousness can be amplified by changes in its environment (such as loud parties or late nights) and other behavior that’s out of the norm. If you don’t have to host, we recommend against it. Or, if you do, you can create a haven and other safety steps to keep your pet as calm as possible.

This can look like investing in Fourth-specific products, preparing your dog in advance with louder noises, or vet-approved stress relief. You can also incorporate these preventative wellness options into your training regimen to create a sense of familiarity before use, which can be helpful!

How to keep your dog safe during fireworks 

If you don’t believe that preventative techniques will work for your anxiety-prone pet, you might choose more extreme options; such as working with a qualified behaviorist or going somewhere where you can avoid loud booms. Additional tips can include:

  • Being intentional about prep. No furry friend likes to be left alone, especially with fireworks noises in the background. Try to remain as accessible as possible to reduce nervousness.
  • Stay aware of jumpy behaviors and cues that are brought on by nerves. If you have to walk your pet in a loud area, you have a better chance of keeping them with you and safe if you use a double leash. This is especially helpful for bigger dogs.
  • Chip your dog ahead of time. Your pet’s anxiety can be unpredictable, even if you’re staying vigilant to signs of stress. Chipping ahead of time can help you to find your pet quickly if they escape—which would be a worst-case scenario. We also recommend checking to ensure that your pet has an easy-to-read ID tag in case they get out in a panic.

Keeping your dog calm for the Fourth of July & holidays 

Keeping your pet calm during the flashes of light from a Fourth fireworks celebration can be difficult at times. It’s important to pay attention to emotional cues and behaviors that can clue you into how your pup is feeling.

A collaborative and comprehensive effort is generally the best way to address possible anxiety or stress in your dog. Working with your vet is essential to give your dog the best experience possible this holiday.

Frequently asked questions

Do fireworks stress dogs out?

Yes — dogs can be scared of fireworks due to their unpredictability and stimulating nature. Taking preventative steps to help your dog can help to reduce this anxiety.

Can you use Benadryl to calm a dog?

While many sources say that this is “fine” to do, we never recommend medicating your dog without speaking to your vet. Our vet team confirms that the main use of Benedryl for dogs is to address allergies and lower histamine levels. An amount that would cause sedation would likely harm your pet.

Why does my dog shake and pant during fireworks?

Shaking and panting can be signs of nervousness in your pet. Yawning can also occur in times of high stress as your dog attempts to regulate itself. Note that whimpering doesn’t have to be happening for your dog to be under intense stress. Stay vigilant and take steps to help create a calm environment for your pet.

Do fireworks hurt dogs’ ears?

Fireworks can hurt your dog’s ears, as they are incredibly sensitive. It’s generally best to keep your dog inside where noises can be muffled, especially if the loud noises are happening repeatedly—such as during a Fourth of July display.

What dogs are not afraid of fireworks?

Many find that more laid-back breeds (such as mastiffs or spaniels) may be less prone to fear around fireworks. However, every dog across all breeds has the potential to be nervous around loud noises.