Dogs & Fireworks: 4th of July Tips For Dog Owners

Red and blue fireworks display overhead. A dog’s hearing is 10 times more sensitive than a human’s, so the fireworks are likely to cause your dog some anxiety, stress and fear.

Here’s what you can do in the hours leading up to the fireworks.

Plus, what to do if you notice your dog is overly stressed by the loud noises and bright lights.

 


Dogs And Fireworks
 

As a responsible dog owner, you should do everything in your power to protect your dog on this night filled with loud bangs, pops and sizzles.

Since fireworks typically only happen once or twice a year, the sounds and lights are likely to catch your dog off-guard, confuse him a bit (or a lot!), and possibly make him nervous and on edge the entire evening. 

Remember, your dog’s hearing is 10 times more sensitive than yours!

If you want to enjoy the fireworks and you have a dog, here are your options:
 

#1   If you’re thinking of taking your dog outside to watch the fireworks with you…
Think again! You and your dog will have a much more enjoyable evening if you leave the dog at home.

Plus, wherever there are fireworks displays, there are usually people setting off their own personal fireworks — including sparklers and firecrackers. Aside from the danger associated with your dog being in the wrong place at the wrong time (dogs & fire simply don’t mix), the mass hysteria, loud noises and repeated flashes of light are likely to have a traumatic effect on your dog.

Whatever you do… don’t leave your dog in the car!

#2   If you live close to a location where the fireworks are set off in your town…
Your best bet is to keep your dog indoors (preferably in a crate, if he’s already accustomed to spending time in a crate). Leave your dog indoors somewhere where he is likely to do the least amount of harm — to himself, and your house!

You should also turn on the TV or a radio — with the volume turned up loud — to make it less likely that he will be able to hear the fireworks outside.

Since the flashing lights can scare your dog just as much as the loud noises, be sure to close all the curtains and blinds inside your home and turn ON all the lights in the room. This will make the bright lights from fireworks less noticeable to your dog. Plus, closed curtains and blinds offer a small degree of sound-proofing in your home, lowering the high pitched sounds a tiny bit.

#3  If you’re staying home with your dog…
Without a doubt, the best place for your dog on this night is inside the house. Preferably your house — a place that your dog is already familiar with and a place where he feels comfortable.

Ideally, you would be in the room with him to monitor any stress or anxiety which might arise. Odds are, there will be none, and you’ll simply be enjoying a night at home with your dog. But you never know.

Some dogs exhibit no signs of fear in their early years, then as they get older suddenly become terrified by the loud noises and bright lights. (This is often due to a change in their hearing, as different tones & pitches begin to sound differently to them.)

Following are some great tips for things you can do beforehand, and things you can do on-the-spot the moment you notice a change in your dog’s stress level…

 

Some Things You Can Do Ahead Of Time To Prevent Anxiety
 

Here are a few precautions you can take way ahead of time to prepare your dog for this stressful night:

Dog anxiety wrap. Make sure your dog has his collar and ID tags on. In the worst case scenarios, dogs have been known to chew through crates, doors, and even jump out of windows due to their anxiety.

Spend some one-on-one time with your dog in the hours leading up to the fireworks. The more personal attention your dog receives from you, the less likely he will be to resent being left alone later that evening.

Let your dog outside to "do his thing" right before it gets dark and people start setting off their own fireworks.

Exercise your dog by taking him on a longer-than-usual walk or by participating in some active play with your dog. This will tire him out and make him less likely to over-exert himself later if/when he becomes stressed from the sound of fireworks.

Give your dog a relaxing rub-down or doggie massage an hour or so before dark. This will put him in a calm frame of mind early, which will help him to handle whatever stress might come later.

Give your dog a bath (assuming that your dog finds baths an enjoyable experience). Better yet, use an aromatherapy dog shampoo in a scent that is calming to dogs. (My favorite: Spa 4 Paws)

Play a rigorous game of catch or fetch with your dog in the early evening hours, to give your dog a chance to burn off some energy and tire him out a bit. This way, he’ll have less drive (and energy) to become overly excited later, once the loud noises and fireworks start.

Add some cooked (plain) potato or white rice (plain) to his regular meal that evening. Just like with people, carbohydrates will make a dog feel fuller and sleepier than usual. A tired and well-fed dog will be less anxious.

alt="" /> Plug in one of those popular in-home air fresheners that releases calming aromatherapy scents into your home. Or, use some other type of aromatherapy tools (candles, home diffusers, heat lamps, etc.) to fill your home with a relaxing aroma with the addition of Essential Oils. Some good choices: Lavender, Juniper, Chamomile, Bergamot, Frankincense, Sweet Orange. (More about dogs and aromatherapy.)

If you plan enough in advance, you can ask your vet for some dog anxiety medicine, or order something like Pet Calm pills or spray.

 

How To Calm A Nervous Dog On The Spot
 

The moment you notice that your dog is becoming overly excited or anxious by the loud noises and bright lights, try one of these:

  • Distract your dog with some of his favorite things. Your best bet is to pull out that one special thing that your dog only sees a couple times a year. It will be such a welcome surprise to him, that he’ll become fixated on it, and less on the loud noises and flashing lights. (For our dogs, that would be a pressed rawhide bone — a rare treat in our home.)
     
  • Interact with your dog in a low-key game of indoor catch. The interaction with you, and the act of participating in a a dog-friendly activity will likely distract him from the fireworks.
     
  • Give your dog a KONG toy, stuffed with goodies. If it’s tasty enough to your dog, he will likely lose interest in the noises and lights and become fully focused on this special dog treat. Need ideas for new things to stuff inside?… Try these one-of-a-kind Kong recipes!
     
  • Try introducing a brand new toy or treat (hopefully, a long-lasting chewy one!) to your dog. Perhaps he’ll be more interested in the surprise smells that are in his face, than the surprise sounds that are in his ears.
     
  • Do not soothe your dog too much or "baby" her in times of stress. This will probably only make the problem worse. Instead, be cheerful and in control. Also, don’t punish your dog, as this will only make her more anxious and nervous.

You could also try some basic aromatherapy for dogs. Or stick some ear plugs into your dog’s ears.

 

Don’t miss these interesting tips from the ASPCA: Often Overlooked 4th of July  Dog Safety Tips.

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • Clickertrainer

    I noticed you have a photo of a dog with the Anxiety Wrap on but don’t mention in in your article. As a professional dog trainer, I have used the Anxiety Wrap (not the same thing as the Thundershirt) on dogs with all kinds of fear and anxiety and it has worked consistently. Readers should also know that there is a series of sound CDs produced by Through A Dogs’ Ear that are made specifically for dogs and can be used to help desensitize a dog to the sounds of fireworks and thunderstorms.