How to Help Your Dog Stay Calm on the 4th of July

Authored by Cathy Madson, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

While July 4th celebrations can be tons of fun for us humans, the loud bangs and other fireworks noises can be downright terrifying for many dogs. Even dogs who don’t suffer from thunderstorm phobia or other noise aversions can become stressed by all the hubbub and flashing lights in the sky.

Dogs may show anxiety or stress in a variety of different ways. Pay attention and learn to recognize these signs for what they may mean. Signs of stress can include: panting, trembling, drooling, pacing, hiding, trying to escape, decreased appetite, potty accidents, dilated pupils or wide eyes, and whining or barking.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help your dog through the fireworks and lessen their stress and anxiety. Let’s look at things you can do ahead of time to prepare your dog, as well as things you can do the actual day of July 4th to lessen their stress!

 

  • Fireworks Shows and Dogs Don’t Mix: It’s best to just leave your pup at home if you plan on attending a live fireworks show or a party. They’ll feel more comfortable being in a familiar environment (especially if you’ve created a safe space for them), and you’ll be able to enjoy your time with friends and family. Just make sure you’ve closed all your windows and shut outside doors to prevent your dog from escaping.
  • Exercise: Provide your dog with plenty of physical exercise before the fireworks begin. It’s best to have your dog on-leash whenever you’re outside, in case they are startled by a random bang and try to bolt.
  • Collar and ID Tags: Make sure your dog is wearing their collar with their identification tags, in case they do get out and become lost. This can save a lot of time in getting them back to you quickly if someone finds them.
  • Hunker Down: My fourth of July consists of lots of exercise and training early in the day to help burn my dog’s energy, followed by an action movie marathon during fireworks time. I put on my favorite jammies and cuddle up on the couch with my pup to relax for the evening. Not only does this give me the chance to catch up on some movies, but it also provides some nice sound masking from the bangs and booms of the fireworks in my neighborhood. You can also use a loud fan or turn on music to mask the outside noise.
  • Treat Party for Firework Noise: Grab your treat bag with some super high value treats and keep it on you for the evening. Any time there’s a loud firework noise, praise your dog and give them a treat. You’re teaching them that the loud “scary” noise predicts something awesome happening — Pavlov would be proud. This is similar to the noise desensitization protocol outlined earlier in this article, but you’re doing it in real time. You can also give your dog an interactive toy or a kong stuffed with yummy food and treats to give your dog something fun and positive to work on while the fireworks sound outside.
  • Potty Breaks: At some point your dog will most likely need a potty break while fireworks are going off. Make sure they are leashed and under control to prevent them from bolting if a loud noise scares them. I recommend keeping them leashed for potty breaks even if you have a fenced yard — safety first!