The Fourth of July is coming up, which means most of us will be celebrating by going to a BBQ and enjoying a fireworks show. Unfortunately, Independence Day is not a fun holiday for our furry friends, no matter how many bites of a hot dog you give them. Most dogs are terrified of fireworks, which could potentially have a tragic outcome. According to the American Kennel Club, “it’s ... largely believed that Independence Day is the day when the highest number of dogs run away,” because they are understandably fearful of the explosions in the sky.
If you have a dog who gets anxious when there are unfamiliar noises, it may be in your best interest to keep them by your side during the Fourth of July. Consider following these suggestions that may help your furry friend keep calm on Independence Day.
Have Them Watch Firework Videos
A few days prior to the 4th, consider having them watch firework videos on YouTube. Canine Behavior Consultant, Jenn Stanley, recommended this method while speaking to the American Kennel Club in June 2021.
“The volume should be low enough that your dog can notice it, but does not show signs of stress like panting, pacing, leaving the area or trying to hide. We call this keeping the dog ‘below threshold,’ and it makes it possible for learning to take place. If the dog is overwhelmed, they’re looking to escape the situation and are not going to be nearly as capable of learning that it’s not a threat,” explained Stanley.
Make A Calming Space
While speaking to the American Kennel Club, Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, explained that because “[d]ogs are den animals — they’re looking for that cave to get away from it all.” So, before the 4th, make a comfy, calming space for your pup in either your bathroom or walk-in closet if you have one.
Give Them Plenty Of Exercise
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise before the fireworks show. If the weather permits, you may even want to head over to a local hiking trail to really tire them out. This tactic usually works wonders for my dog, who is terrified of thunderstorms. If she has a really long day, full of activities like going to the dog park or dog beach, she sleeps through the noises that would usually trigger her anxiety.
Use Distraction Tactics
If you can hear fireworks from your house, use some distraction tactics, like a puzzle toy, so your dog’s focus will be on something else besides loud, scary noises. During an interview with Scientific American, veterinary behaviorist Ilana Reisner also suggested that "before the fireworks start, cook up an irresistible food such as chicken breast, special meat or salmon cookies, microwave tiny bits of nitrate-free hot dogs, and popcorn.”
"Stock a treat bag. Feed one piece at a time to your dog throughout the fireworks to counter condition and distract. If your dog is willing, make a game of it and ask her to sit, down, 'find it', shake hands and other distracting cues. Freeze a Kong with kibble mixed with baby food. Feed dinner through the toy,” said Reisner.
Consult Your Veterinarian
Consult your dog’s veterinarian to see if they believe your pup should be on any anxiety medication.“You will need to have a working relationship with a veterinarian to receive a prescription, but anti-anxiety meds are the best way to help your pet through fireworks, especially if they get very stressed out,” explained Dr. Leslie Brooks, DVM, during a 2020 interview with Pawp.