Fireworks & More: Dog Safety on the 4th of July

Keeping Your Dog Safe On Independence Day

Everyone loves fireworks — except your pets!  The loud noises and strong smells can be too much for your favorite furry friend.

How can you tell if your dog is scared of fireworks?

A frightened dog:

  • Has its ears laid back, or rapidly swiveling in all directions
  • Has a rounded, “crouching” back, and tail tucked between its hind legs
  • Has wide eyes with whites visible (“whale eye”)
  • May have the corners of its mouth drawn straight back
  • May pant or drool excessively (saliva dripping from the mouth in strings)
  • May tremble or shiver
  • May whine, howl, or bark
  • May lick or scratch itself excessively (more than usual)
  • May chew or destroy objects (more than usual)
  • May press itself against you, against walls or furniture, or against other pets in the home
  • May hide behind or under furniture, in its crate, or in small rooms

What can you do if your dog is frightened of fireworks?

1. Prior to July 4, play videos of fireworks (such as this one on YouTube) on very low volume in the background while you do happy things with your pet, like play fetch or cuddle.

Keep the volume low enough the dog does not exhibit any signs of fear and remains relaxed.  Slowly raise the volume of the video over time (perhaps once an hour), taking care that the dog does not show signs of fearing the noises.

The goal is for the sound of fireworks to become a random background noise the dog is used to hearing all the time.  (This process is called “habituation”.)

2.  Consider a Thundershirt or other calming wrap on “the big night”.  Temple Grandin, animal behavior expert and author of many books on animal welfare, promotes the use of pressure wraps  for animals as a calming mechanism.  Apply the wrap while the dog is still calm, prior to the start of fireworks.

3.  Purchase a diffuser.  Used with Dog-appeasing pheromones (DAP) or with calming essential oils such as lavender or rose oil, the diffuser can help mask some of the sulfur smell from the fireworks and may also produce a calming effect.  Start the diffuser while the dog is still calm.

4. Help drown out the noise with calming sounds.  Play calming music (this playlist on YouTube is a good one) or put on a radio or television so the fireworks sounds are masked.
5.  Distract, distract, distract.  This is the night for a long-term chew toy like:
  • A stuffed Kong
  • A puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter and treats
  • Large ice cubes filled with kibble
  • Several Busy Bones

Give the toys to the dog prior to the start of the excitement, so he or she has time to really get into the treat.  If your pet is watching their weight, let’s call the treats a replacement for dinner… just this once.

6.  Keep your pets away from the excitement.  If you are having a party, consider confining your dog in a crate, a quiet bathroom, or a favorite bedroom so the dog does not have to deal with strange people and a party atmosphere as well as the fireworks.  Allow your dog to find his or her favorite “safe space” away from the loud noises and let him stay there until the excitement is over and he or she feels safe again.

7.  Be very careful about securing your pet.  Many dogs and cats go missing each July 4 when they are startled by something. In their distress, they can easily break out of a previously secure area or off a previously secure tether or leash.  Keep your pets indoors and make doubly sure leashes and harnesses are secure.  Fear makes pets fast and strong!

8.  Make sure your pet has ID tags in case he or she does go missing.  Consider a reflective collar or harness in case your dog makes a break for it at night.  Microchipping your pet is also a good idea at any time of year!

We hope everyone in your family, two-legged and four-legged, has a wonderful July 4 this year!  Stay safe!