Fourth of July Safety For Your Dog

It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises. The sounds trigger their nervous system and they can become anxious and afraid. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct. 

It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises. The sounds trigger their nervous system and they can become anxious and afraid. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct. 

Every year shelters all over the country do their best to prepare for the July 4th holiday. From "Empty The Cage" campaigns to reduced adoption fees, they are preparing for the unfortunate yet imminent influx of stray dogs who have run away from home because they were frightened.

More pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day, so you should take extra steps to ensure their safety. Keep a keen eye on your dog during the commotion, and make sure your pet is wearing proper identification.

Remember, to your dog, the experience of fireworks is different than other natural loud noises, like thunder. Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes and burning smells. Dogs experience the world through their senses — nose, eyes, ears. The typical Fourth of July celebration can be overwhelming to them.

Here are some tips to help keep your dog calm, making for an easier holiday for both of you.

1. Preparation

If you can't be home, arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays — a friend’s or relative’s home or a doggie day care with which your dog is familiar. If it’s an unfamiliar place for your dog, take him over there a few times in the days before the holiday so that it won’t be a surprise when you take him there on the fourth.

2. Accommodation

If you cannot take your dog to a place away from fireworks, then have a travel kennel at home for him or her to feel safe in. If you’re not going to be home, have a friend or sitter there to keep your dog company.

3. Thunder Shirt

These snug-fitting shirts target various pressure points, creating a sensation similar to swaddling a baby. Veterinarians and dog trainers frequently recommend this drug-free option for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, fear of loud noises (thus the name “Thundershirt”) and travel anxiety.

4. Sedation

If you do find it necessary to use medication or a Thundershirt to calm your dog during the fireworks, remember that you must introduce any such tool at the right time, conditioning your dog to understand that the medication or Thundershirt is there to bring them to a calm state. This means that you must bring your dog to that calm state first, then introduce the tool — before the fireworks and the anxiety begin. If she is already at an anxiety level of 8 or 9, then her mental state will overrule the medication. If she is already breathing heavily, then the Thundershirt, which is designed to slow her breathing, won’t work. A tool is an intellectual thing we use with a dog’s instincts. The challenge is knowing how and when to connect the two.

5. Communication

If you are going to be with your dog during the fireworks, sending the calming message that they are nothing to worry about will also help him to relax. Remember, though, while humans communicate with words, dogs communicate with energy, and will look to their pack leader for clues on how they should behave. If you’re not making a big deal or showing excitement about the fireworks, then he will learn to be less concerned as well.

In all cases above, expend your dog’s excess energy first, before the fireworks start, by taking her on a very long walk to tire her out and put her in a calm state.

Most importantly, don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on a great, fun time. That’s human guilt. Your dog won’t know what she’s missing. You’re being a good pack leader by not exposing her to a situation that will trigger her flight instinct in a negative way. When the booms and bangs of Independence Day are over, your dog will be grateful to you for having made it a less stressful experience! 

If you do find a stray dog, please keep it safe for the night and bring it to the nearest shelter in the morning. This is the best way to help reunite lost dogs with their families. 

Susie Saladino