There’s no other American holiday quite like the 4th of July — warm weather, cookouts, hanging by the pool, patriotic festivals and of course, firework displays. Unfortunately, while us humans are having a great time, some of our furry friends feel as if they’re in the middle of World War III. Shelter populations surge in the days following the July 4th holiday because many dogs are terrified of fireworks.
Some pet owners are lucky enough to own a dog that doesn’t seem bothered by the sizzling, cracking, popping and exploding sounds of a firework show. That’s not the case for most animals though, so it’s important to take the proper precautions to ensure their safety and sanity during Independence Day.
Why Do Dogs Fear the Fourth?
Many dogs suffer from phonophobia (fear of noise) — and there are few noises as loud and persistent as a fireworks display. When the mortars start exploding into loud bangs and flashing lights, dogs are triggered and enter survival mode — extra adrenaline and stress hormones pump throughout their body.
For some dogs, survival mode means hiding from the noise. For many others, it means running as fast and as far from the noise as possible. The more frightening sounds he hears, the more he’ll run. This behavior can result in a lost dog being found miles from his home. Unfortunately, many lost dogs run so far from home that their owners are never identified.
Signs He’s Scared
Obviously if he’s tearing around the house, barking or whining, you know the firework show is causing anxiety. However, sometimes dogs are more subtle when demonstrating their fear. Keep an eye out for restlessness because this is a telltale sign of anxiety. Fear of fireworks is developed gradually, but can also result from a traumatic event.
Keep Pets Inside and Stay Home
Never leave a dog outside during the July 4th week. Even if the yard is fenced in, when the adrenaline is pumping, dogs can jump over medium-height fences. Other dogs may dig out from under the fence and escape. Instead, bring the dog inside where you can mitigate the sights and sounds of the fireworks.
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When your dog needs to go potty, take her out on a leash (even if it’s in your own backyard). That way if a firework goes off while she’s doing her business, she doesn’t try to bolt away.
It’s not enough to just leave your dog inside and call it a day. If you have a new dog or a dog you know is afraid of fireworks, don’t leave her alone inside. If she experiences anxiety you need to be there to provide comfort and reassurance that everything will be okay. There are plenty of photos on the internet showing the level of destruction an anxiety-ridden dog can cause to furniture, carpets, shoes and other items — don’t let that be you!
Not everyone is able to stay home on the Fourth of July. If you can’t stay with your dog over the holiday, ask a friend or relative to dog-sit for the day. Another option is hiring a pet -sitter through an app like Rover or a trusted local dog-sitting service.
Take Her Out For Some Exercise
One suggestion is to take your dog for a long walk, a trip to the park or any other activity that she loves and gets her good and worn out. It’s easier to keep a tired dog calm during a fireworks display, plus she’ll sleep more deeply. If you play your cards right, she might even snooze right through the show.
July 4th is normally a very hot time of year, so be sure to take proper precautions to avoid heat stroke during exercise. Pick a time of day when it’s not as hot, bring lots of water and be sure you recognize the telltale signs of heat stroke.
Give Him Extra Love and Comfort
It’s important to remember that you can’t train a frightened dog to get used to fireworks. If a dog is afraid of the loud sounds and bright lights of fireworks, allow them to express their fear. If he’s hiding under a bed or in his crate, let him stay there. Don’t pull him out in the hopes exposure will condition him to the sounds — it simply won’t work and likely will cause further trauma.
Distraction is a great tactic — play with his favorite toys (Kong filled with peanut butter is always a great distraction device), feed him special treats and give him extra snuggles. For some suggestions on a fun distraction for your dog, check out our recent post on toys. Every dog is different; some will leap into your arms for comfort while others will want to hide and be alone. Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and treat anxiety accordingly.
Anxiety Reducing Products
Anti-anxiety vests are designed specifically for relaxing dogs during events like a thunderstorm or fireworks display. They apply constant gentle pressure that has a calming effect on dogs. Insider recently ranked some of the best dog anxiety vests to help you choose the right one for your dog.
We typically discourage pet owners from using sedatives to calm anxiety, especially when shipping your pet. However, veterinary medicine has improved significantly over the years. Now there are products that reduce anxiety instead of simply sedating the dog. Melatonin is one such supplement that can encourage sleep and reduce anxiety.
Another popular anti-anxiety treatment for dogs is using CBD oils. While some pet owners may think twice about using a marijuana-derived product, CBD is completely safe to use and no, it won’t get your dog high! Most evidence pointing to the effectiveness of CBD oil is anecdotal. However, there are some studies that show it increases comfort and reduces stress in dogs.
Dog-Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) are another product that has shown to ease noise phobia in dogs. Studies have shown that DAP collars reduce sound-induced fear and anxiety in dogs. Adaptil is one of the leading manufacturers of DAP products, from collars to diffusers.
Avoid the Noise
Of course, if the dog can’t even hear the fireworks, she’ll be more comfortable on July 4th. Close the windows and doors of your house to reduce what can be heard from the inside.
Turn up the stereo or TV set to drown out any sounds that can be heard with the windows and doors closed. If you have a loud central A/C or a fan, that’s another great way to create white noise — plus it will keep your dog cool on a hot July evening.
White noise machines are an effective way to cover the sound and reduce anxiety. Play the white noise machine during calm, comforting moments in the days leading up to July 4th so your dogs have a positive association with the sounds.
Some pet owners place cotton balls in their dog’s ears to act as ear plugs. Just remember to remove the balls once things have quieted down!
What to Do After July 4th When Dogs Go Missing
Even when you take all the proper preparations, things can go wrong. Being prepared ahead of time is the best way to ensure you’re reunited with your dog in the unfortunate event he runs away.
Microchip your dog and register your information. This is the best way to find your dog. AKC Reunite makes it easy to buy and register a microchip for your dog. AKC Reunite has a live call center for lost dogs with agents available 24/7 — but keep in mind that July 5th-8th is the busiest time of the year.
A microchip isn’t a GPS product — instead, it simply identifies your pet and makes it easier to get in touch with the person or kennel that has your dog. It won’t tell you the location of your lost dog. AKC will use the contact information stored in the microchip to call, email and text you and the emergency contacts you listed.
The first thing you to do after a dog goes missing is organize a search party.
- Ask neighbors, friends and family to help out with the search and scatter in every direction.
- Bring your cell phone with you in case your dog is found and someone calls the number on his tags.
- If the number on his tag is a landline, be sure to have someone stationed at the house in case of a call.
- Have a picture of your dog on-hand.
- Check local shelters and animal control centers to see if they have your dog.
Enjoy the Holiday!
The 4th of July doesn’t have to be stressful for dogs when you take proper precautions ahead of time. Remember to take them out for exercise the morning of the holiday, give them lots of love and attention, use any anti-anxiety products you find are effective and do everything you can to avoid the noise.
If you’re traveling for Independence Day and don’t want to leave your dog alone at home or hire a sitter, consider pet transportation!
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Content Writer at CitizenShipper. I’ve also been published on The Penny Hoarder, Mommy Poppins and mxdwn.