You may be looking forward to fireworks this 4th of July holiday, but to many dogs this is the scariest day of the year. More dogs get lost and end up in shelters around this time, than any other time of the year. Growing up, we lost my dog Blueberry several times due to fireworks, but luckily we always got her back. Don’t risk going through the trauma and heartache of losing your dog, and take a little preparation to keep them safe and calm this 4th of July.
Never take your dog to a fireworks display!
This may seem obvious to most, but each year I see some poor dogs that have been brought along to the fireworks celebration. Even if your dog has never displayed sound phobias before, don’t test your luck. Phobias can develop at any time, and if your dog is exposed to a particularly loud or startling firework, they may panic and run away.
Keep your dog inside during fireworks
Provide your dog with a secure place to hide, and close all windows and doors if possible. Some really frightened dogs have broken out through screen doors and windows and gotten lost. Run the AC or a fan to provide some white noise.
Make sure that your dog is secure at all times
If you must take your dog outside, do so on a leash (even if you have a fenced yard) and make sure that your dog’s collar is fitted properly. If too loose, your dog may pull out of the collar and run off. With a properly fitted collar, you should be able to easily slide two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. The collar should feel snug but not tight. If your dog is on the skittish side, I recommend buying a martingale collar (or limited slip collar) for taking your dog on walks. Even though my dog Dante is not afraid of loud noises, I still use a martingale collar on his walks ever since he pulled out of his collar to chase after a squirrel. Be aware that many dogs can easily slip out of harnesses. If using a front-clip harness (like the Easy Walk Harness), clip your leash to both the collar and the harness.
If anyone will be coming or going from your house during the fireworks, make sure that your dog cannot easily get outside. If you don’t have a separate entryway to your house (like an enclosed porch or garage), then secure your dog with a baby gate or behind a closed door. If that’s not an option and you will be home, then leash your dog and keep them with you.
Be prepared in case your dog escapes!
Make sure that your dog has an ID tag with your current phone number or an embroidered collar. If you don’t have one, make a temporary ID by taping a piece of paper with your phone number onto their collar. If your dog doesn’t have a collar, write your phone number in permanent marker on their stomach. I don’t normally recommend writing on your dog, but July 4th is essentially a disaster preparedness situation from your dog’s perspective. If microchipped, make sure that the microchip is registered and your contact information is up-to-date.
Better yet, get your dog a GPS or radio-tracker for their collar. I use the Whistle 3 pet tracker on my own dog.
- Exercise your dog earlier in the day to naturally make them more calm at night.
- If possible, don’t leave your dog alone.
- If your dog is particularly scared, keep them in a closed room with a secure place to hide: a covered crate or coffee table or under a bed. Some dogs even prefer to hide in the bathtub.
- Provide white noise with an air conditioner, fan, TV or radio. Better yet, use psycho-acoustically designed music to reduce your dog’s anxiety such as Through a Dog’s Ear. This is most effective if you start playing well before fireworks when your dog is still relaxed. This music has been clinically proven to calm the canine nervous system. Listen to free sound samples here.
- Use a canine body wrap like the Thundershirt. This body wrap applies gentle, constant pressure to calm fear and over-excitement, like swaddling an infant. They report that this is proven effective in over 80% of dogs. You can also create your own calming body wrap using an ace bandage.
- Distract your dog with a toy or treat. If your dog is not so distressed that they won’t eat, a safe chew toy is a great distraction. Stuff a Kong with wet food and freeze it or stuff a bone with semi-moist food like a BLUE Wilderness Wild Roll.
- Try using a calming essence or pheromone. Some options include:
- If your dog is extremely anxious or destructive, consider talking with your vet about getting a prescription anti-anxiety medication.
Have a Happy 4th of July!