The 4th of July can be stressful and traumatic for our pets. To help prepare for the festivities, we must understand how and why animals naturally react to fireworks. Dogs use their nose, eyes, and ears to experience the world around them. The sudden booms, burning smells, large gatherings, and flashing lights can cause our pets to feel anxious and afraid. More pets go missing on the 4th and 5th of July than on any other day of the year.
Preparation is critical to ensuring that everyone in your pack stays safe. In the video below, Cesar explains some essential tips and examples you can implement at home.
For those who may not be celebrating the 4th of July in the U.S., you can practice these tips during your local holidays or at special events throughout the year that include loud noises.
Why Are Dogs Afraid of Fireworks?
Fireworks are something that most dogs regularly encounter, so the sound and brightness can cause fear and anxiety. The loud booms that go on and on, coupled with the lit-up sky and the smell of gunpowder in the air, are not part of a dog’s everyday life, so it should not surprise humans that fireworks can cause adverse effects on their behavior.
Fireworks Are Sudden
For canines, fireworks cannot compare to thunderstorms which tend to come with a host of signals like changes in atmospheric pressure and strengthening winds. Fireworks arrive suddenly, on the sly, and are thus more intimidating.
Dogs Have Better Hearing
Canines can hear up to three times better than people, given that they can identify pitches that surpass the ones we can. Sudden, loud sounds, such as fireworks shows, can injure their hearing and trigger fear responses.
Fireworks Can Give Anxiety
As one of the loudest celebrations of the year, July Fourth can agitate your pet, triggering stress. Anxiety can showcase itself differently for each animal and may even encompass a fight-or-flee response. Frantic efforts to get away can make dogs gnaw, scrape, dig, and even leap out of windows.
Flight, Fight, or Freeze
When in a state of anxiety, pooches may enter flight mode, scurrying off to hide themselves or escape from your watch and run away. Fight mode consists of constant barking, or a third, freeze. The dogs who cower in silence from fear, anxiousness, and strain can be more difficult to help. Some indications of freeze mode include when an animal shifts from being hyperactive and wagging its tail to hiding and staying in one spot.
Signs That Fireworks Frighten Your Dog
First, you must pay attention to your dog’s body language. Here are some signs that your dog is not a fan:
- Tucked tail
- Excessive drooling
How To Prepare Your Dog for Fireworks
Preparing your pet for fireworks is essential to ensuring their safety and minimizing the effect of loud noises on them. Begin these steps weeks, even months, before the Fourth of July to give yourself plenty of time for proper preparation.
You can begin training your pet a few weeks before the holiday arrives and learn how to help dogs. Play sounds over a speaker that simulates fireworks. Start at a low volume and gradually increase the noise level as your dog tolerates to desensitize the sound. Make sure to give rewards each time a new sound level is reached and offer plenty of praise and belly rubs.
Updated Pet Picture
Take a current picture of your furry friend, just in case. Fourth of July is the most common time of year dogs run away, and a recent image can help locate your pet quickly.
Secure Your Surroundings
Ensure the surroundings are safe and sound. If your neighbors set off fireworks suddenly, do you have enough protection in your yard to restrain your pet? Consider all options and decide on the most secure area for your faithful friend, and implement improvements if needed to make that space secure.
How To Keep Your Dog Calm During Fireworks
A scared dog tends to make a break and run away from whatever noise has frightened them. Even a fenced-in yard might not be able to contain your pet. Never underestimate the power and force behind a frightened dog. You might think your dog can’t overcome the fear of fireworks, but there are steps to prepare ahead and ease the anxiety.
Take the time to give your dog an extra walk and exercise before the fireworks begin. A tired and worn-out pup is easier to calm and will most likely sleep more deeply. The deeper they sleep, the less likely they are to be awakened by the noise.
Choose to Stay Home
This tip is critical if you have a dog who is new to your home. Whether they are a puppy or adopted, you have never seen how they respond to fireworks. Behavior can escalate quickly if you are not home to comfort and help calm the anxiety.
Block the Sound
Try putting on music, turning up the tv, or closing the windows. Think about the volume it will take to drown out the sound of the loud fireworks. You can also have background noise, such as a fan or an air conditioner, to help with noise cancellation.
Play an engaging game indoors, give some extra snuggles, and break out your dog’s favorite treat. Keeping your pup engaged and distracted can help pass the time, and they may not even notice what’s happening outside. To make a treat last longer and keep your furry friend busy, put some peanut butter in a kong and freeze it.
Dogs can read body language, so if you’re tense or jump when a firework goes off, they will respond similarly or worse.
Provide a Comfortable Spot
It’s quite common for dogs to retreat to a space where they feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s their crate or under a bed. Rather than pulling your pup from their comfort zone, assure them they are okay and can stay where they are as long as they like. Never try to remove them from their spot and get them closer to the sound in an effort to get them used to the sounds.
Block Outdoor View
It’s as simple as closing the curtains or blinds to remove the visual stimulation. Doing so can help keep your dog calm. Black-out curtains are a great way to keep bright lights from entering the room and help with loud noises.
Some pet owners have had success with Thundershirts. The pressure of the shirt has been known to have a calming effect on the dog’s nervous system.
Since dogs are known to bolt when they are scared, having them microchipped is a safety measure you can take, along with ensuring they have a collar and tags that include your phone number, your name, and the name of your pet.
Knowing what to give dogs to help with anxiety can be challenging. One can utilize over-the-counter anxiety aids, but you should first seek the opinion of your veterinary practitioner before commencing any supplements. This counsel is especially important if your pup takes prescription medicines or has dietary limitations to confirm they won’t suffer from an allergic reaction or bear results.
Keep Your Routine
Keeping your animal companion calm during unexpected noises such as fireworks is a priority for many pet owners. By keeping their routine consistent throughout the loud holiday festivities, their environment will become far less triggering, and they won’t be so easily spooked. Keeping their diet, exercise, and sleep patterns regular can go a long way in minimizing anxiety and fear during this time of year.
Create a Safe Space
It’s vital to ensure that your pets remain in a comfortable atmosphere to keep them tranquil. Establish a dim and quiet area in your house. (If your dog chooses to stay in the crate, move that to the safe space.) Sometimes animals already have a favorite hiding place—for instance, in the tub, beneath a given bed, or in a closet—where they’ve previously gone during storms or fireworks. It could be simplest to set up their calm area in this location since they feel protected there.
For the 4th of July, animals can feel anxious due to sudden booms, burning smells, large gatherings, and flashing lights. Preparation is key; these tips can be used during other holidays or events with loud noises.