Dogs & Fireworks: How to Make Fourth of July Less Stressful for Pets
Tips for helping your dog cope with the noise and stress of fireworks and Independence Day celebrations in Indiana.
One of the main events at most Fourth of July celebrations in Indiana is, of course, the fireworks – what would Independence Day be without them? And while we humans might love the “oohs” and “aahs” of fancy explosions and bright colors, your dog most likely won’t feel the same way. In fact, research shows that more pets run away on this holiday than any other time of the year.
The Fourth of July can be a stressful holiday for pets. Loud noises can cause fear in dogs, causing anxiety and a triggered nervous system. Unlike natural occurrences (like thunder), fireworks are more intense, lower to the ground, and come with flashing lights and unfamiliar smells. You can make the holiday safer and a little less frightening for your dog by following these tips:
- Be prepared. Make sure your dog is wearing proper identification, and keep your eye on him during the activities and commotion. Remember that your dog’s survival instinct is to be afraid of loud noises and run away.
- Supply plenty of water. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty, so make sure that water bowl is topped off.
- Seek safety. If possible, arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks going off. This could be at a friend’s or relative’s house, or even at a familiar dog-boarding It will help if your dog has spent time and is already comfortable at the home or doggie daycare.
- Consider alternatives. Unable to take your dog away to a fireworks-free location? Have a travel kennel or cage at home for her to feel safe in. Allow her to seek refuge under beds or chairs, if that’s preferable. Draw curtains, shut any open windows and doors, and leave the TV or radio on to help distract from outside noises. If you’re not going to be home, have a sitter, friend or relative come over to keep your dog company. Make sure she is taken out to relieve herself every four hours.
- Get your dog used to the sounds. If you’d like to help your dog become more tolerant of fireworks, consider planning ahead for next year and work in advance to make him more comfortable with the loud sounds. With plenty of patience and time (probably three to four months), you can play recorded sounds of fireworks or other loud noises for your dog at increased intervals and volumes. This can be done before a walk or meal time, and during playtime. As he learns to associate the noise with safety and comfort, it can help desensitize him from the sounds of fireworks. Note: If your dog is extremely sensitive to loud noises, seek the advice of an experienced dog behaviorist before you try any desensitizing techniques.
- Consult with your vet. If your dog has an extreme reaction to fireworks, talk with your veterinarian about possible solutions. They could include wearing ThunderShirts or other calming accessories, or even taking calming medications, if necessary. And remember, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Do your best to remain calm. Your dog will sense any nervousness on your part, so relax and send the message that things are fine. The less you’re concerned about fireworks, the higher the chances your dog will pick up on your cues and be less concerned as well.
- Get plenty of exercise (before dusk). Prior to any fireworks displays, take your dog on a long walk or out for an invigorating play session. Expend any access energy before the festivities begin. This will help your dog get to a pleasantly tired – and hopefully more calm – state.
- Let your dog sit this one out. We know that dogs are a part of the family, and you might feel guilty by excluding them from a family event. But celebrations with fireworks are events that your dog won’t mind missing out on. If your dog is bothered by fireworks, he will be happy to stay safe at home or in another quiet place, away from stress and anxiety.
Do You Have More Tips to Share?
Have you found ways to make your dog feel safer and less stressed in the presence of fireworks? We’d love to hear your stories. Please leave any additional tips or suggestions in the space below.