Independence Day 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 during this time can be heart-wrenching. Try as you might to reassure them and calm them down, it’s likely your dog might go into a bit of a frenzy and start to panic at the booming sounds and flashes of light.
If that sounds like a familiar scenario in your household, here are six essential tips to help you keep your dog calm and safe during the fourth of July fireworks display.
Tip 1: Keep your dog close by
This sounds like an obvious one, but it’s surprising how many new dog owners don’t realize that their pup might have a negative reaction to the noise, smell, and sight of fireworks.
To ensure that your dog doesn’t get distressed or try and run away, keep them inside and close to you if possible. If you usually keep your dog outside, bring them in for the fireworks to increase their sense of comfort and safety.
If possible, stay in with your pet whilst the fireworks are going off. The worst thing you can do is leave them alone in the house when they are frightened and unsure of what is going on around them. Instead, be sure to give them lots of treats and belly rubs to keep them happy and distracted.
Tip 2: Play white noise or a sound your dog loves
Going back to the distraction method, one of the best ways to stop your dog going into freak out mode when the fireworks are on is to play music. White noise and music — from the TV or radio — has 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. In one study at Glasgow University, dogs who listened to music had lower levels of cortisol and a slower heartbeat than those who didn’t, with a slight preference for reggae and soft rock!
Tip 3: Tire them out with a long walk during the day
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.
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.
Tip 4: Desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks a few days before the event
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.
Tip 5: Create a quiet space for your dog
This is sometimes easier said than done depending on where you live, but finding a quiet space where your dog can nestle in and get comfortable can be an amazing solution. 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.
Make sure that all windows and doors are shut, and if possible cover the windows so that no flashing lights are able to get through. This should help to calm your dog whilst the fireworks go off.
Tip 6: Ask your vet about calming medications
There are a few reasons that talking to your vet can be a great help. Firstly, it means that you’ll be able to ensure your dog has the correct ID if they were to go missing in a panic. Secondly, if your dog’s anxiety is really bad, your vet might be able to prescribe some medication to soothe your pup during the fireworks.
Don’t try to feed your dog any human medication, like Dramamine, as that can end in disaster. Instead, speak to your vet to assess your options.
CBD-infused calming supplements are another option to consider, as they get a lot of praise from dog owners. The challenge is that research is still young, and it’s hard to determine the quality of the supplement you’re buying. Again: Never administer these to your pet without consulting your vet first.
👉 Here’s our guide to CBD use in dogs for more.
The 4th of July celebrations are always a lot of fun, but by following the steps above you can ensure that your dog stays safe and enjoys the day too.