Fireworks can be very scary to your dog.
Even a dog who is normally very confident can struggle with the unexpected loud bangs and flashes of fireworks. Sadly, every year there are thousands of dogs who go missing on the 4th of July when they try to flee from the fireworks.
Maybe your dog has a history of issues with fireworks, or maybe this is their first year showing signs of problems. Noise sensitivities are something that can develop later in life, so don’t be surprised if your dog suddenly develops a phobia during the 4th of July. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to keep your dog safe and comfortable during the festivities.
- Walk your dog early in the day, and give them plenty of exercise before fireworks start. Exercise should be on leash, because the occasional person may start setting fireworks off early, and you should be prepared if your dog gets spooked. Providing exercise earlier means you won’t be having to take your dog out later in the evening, and your dog won’t have excess energy when things get started.
- Have a safe, quiet place for your dog to go to. This could be a laundry room or bathroom, or could just be their crate in a low traffic area. You can cover their crate with a blanket or towel to provide them with more security.
- There is a lot of misinformation floating around about reinforcing fear with food, praise, and attention. Let’s set the record straight. Giving your dog lots of petting and attention when they are freaked out is detrimental, and should be avoided. Giving your dog “busy” toys stuffed with food is great, and should be something that you use to help your dog out.
- When our dogs get frantic, and we start petting them, a few things happen. First of all, your petting is likely to be perceived as frantic to them, and make them even more worked up. You can create far more anxiety and stress this way. Saying “It’s okay, it’s okay” makes you feel better about the situation, but it does absolutely nothing for your dog.
- Stuff Kongs and other interactive toys with high value food earlier in the day, and freeze it. You can use peanut butter, pumpkin mixed with kibble, or even just soaked kibble. Bully sticks, meaty bones, and other high value , interactive objects are also a great choice. Give these to your dog in the evening to give them something to keep them occupied. If you already know that your dog is going to have issues, put them in their safe spot that you created, with their interactive item, and leave them alone.
- You can play the radio, the TV, or other background noise to help drown our the fireworks. Start the TV or radio before things start happening.
- Under no circumstances should your dog go outside alone, or without a leash. Dogs escape fences every year on the 4th, and you shouldn’t assume that your dog won’t become a statistic.
- NEVER take your dog to a fireworks show or similar event. It’s fun for you, but it isn’t fun for them.
- Make sure that your dog’s tag or microchip information is updated, and that you have a recent picture of them. If you follow the tips above, it shouldn’t be an issue, but it is always wise to be prepared for emergency situations, such as someone leaving the door open, etc. If your dog is prone to door bolting, seek out training, and also look into GPS collars like Tractive.
Expect some fireworks during the next day, and the next few nights. Keep up with the tips listed in this article, and keep your dog safe.
If your dog is destructive, panicked, or has otherwise extreme behavior with loud noises, you should consult with both your veterinarian and a professional trainer to develop the best game plan for your individual dog.