The 4th of July is almost here and as we celebrate the nation's birthday, it's time for BBQs, parties, and fireworks. But for many dogs, holidays involving fireworks are a time of stress and anxiety as the loud noises and explosions cause fear. Check out our tips for keeping your pet calm during the fireworks.
While it’s not impossible for dogs and fireworks to coexist peacefully, many dogs experience fear during the celebrations. Studies show that as many as 62% of dogs experience some kind of distress during fireworks as the loud noises trigger their nervous systems and cause a survival instinct to kick in.
Preparing your dog for the 4th of July: Before the Fourth
To adequately prepare for the evening fireworks, getting your dog ready starts in advance. One strategy to help keep them calm is to help condition them to the sound of fireworks in the weeks and days leading up to the holiday. Playing fireworks videos around the house, loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to cause distress, is a good way of allowing them to ease into it.
Some trainers take it a step further as well with counterconditioning by adding a treat to the practice. Over time, the dog is no longer afraid of the noise, and instead associates the negative of the fireworks with the positive of the treats and sees both as a positive.
If you've has particularly bad experiences with your dog and fireworks in the past, you may want to speak to your vet about an anti-anxiety medication for holidays such as this. One advantage about the 4th of July is we know it is coming every year, so you can visit the vet in advance of the day.
Preparing your dog for the 4th of July: The Day Of
When the day does finally arrive, it’s important to help prepare your dog for a stressful night. The best way to prepare is to exercise throughout the day, whether it be long walks, a round of fetch, or a playdate with a friend, can all tire your dog out. Getting worn out by the time sunset arrives means your dog will be less alert during the fireworks.
Finally, in preparation, make sure your dog feels safe, including not being left alone. For pet owners, it is often a decision between taking the dog with you to a beach or lake day versus letting them stay home in an environment they know.
If your dog is one to get anxious around fireworks, they will want to be where they feel the safest, which is likely at home in a crate, under the bed, or wherever they prefer. If your dog recently stopped crating, this might be one of the rare occasions you bring out the crate for comfort and security.
If you are leaving the house, it would be wise to also consider somebody staying behind or asking a close friend the dog is familiar with to pet sit for a couple of hours. Anything to make them feel like they’re not in danger, including a friendly face that they trust and love.
You know your pet the best, but in cases of extreme stress a pet-sitter in their most comfortable environment can often be less disruptive than a trip with their dog parents.
How to keep your dog calm during 4th of July celebrations
Even if you’re prepared adequately and did everything right, a dog’s instincts might still get the best of them as they fear the loud noises suddenly happening around them.
One of the best ways to keep a dog distracted has been and always will be treats and toys. Anything that can get their focus away from what’s happening around them is best, so time-consuming toys like bones, or bully sticks are great to keep on hand.
If they do start to act up and nothing is working to keep them distracted, the best bet from there is to know how to keep them calm. Using a low, soothing voice to ease their minds works well, as opposed to high-pitched tones which tends to make them believe something is wrong. Similarly, long, slow pets help as well.
And as mentioned above, letting them find their safe space can help them feel comfortable. No matter where that is, letting your dog go where they feel safest lets them feel as if they have some control of the situation, rather than sitting helplessly.
Although it’s a time of joy for many of us, the 4th of July can be a hard day and night for dogs. Helping them through it can be a difficult, yet important, task for pet owners, but there’s no reason to not be able to still enjoy the holiday.
Taking your dog with you on a trip for Independence Day? Read our guide on What You Need to Do When Taking Your Dog on Vacation. If you’re looking for treats to chew on during fireworks, shop our main site to find one they’ll love!
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