Humans have tons of exciting reasons to get pumped for the 4th of July. It’s the start of summer, and the best traditions are underway: barbecues, parades, and most of all, firework displays. But while we enjoy celebrating our nation’s birthday with fiery bursts of glory in the sky, our pups are almost never so thrilled. In fact, most dogs become stressed, anxious, and just plain panicked when faced with the loud cracks of firework explosions.
From July 4th–July 6th, the number of lost pets jumps up 30%, and it’s because all that scary stimuli puts pups in flight mode. It’s so important to keep your dog protected and comfortable during all the craziness, and we can help prepare both of you for what’s to come. Here’s what you need to know about getting your pup through the fireworks barrage this July:
First, why are dogs afraid of fireworks?
Though we’ve grown to expect fireworks before, during, and after the 4th, dogs are understandably startled by the experience. Their acute hearing means they’re a lot more sensitive to sound than we are. This, mixed with flashes of bright lights, can make for a pretty daunting situation. Dogs experience fireworks differently from other loud sounds (like thunder booms) because fireworks are much closer to the ground, more vibrant, and emit a burning, smoky smell.
Create a safe space
If your dog is frightened, her automatic response is probably going to be to run and hide. Make sure to set up a safe space they can retreat to when they need to remove themselves from all the activity. Shut the blinds, dim the lights, and dedicate a particular area to a hubbub-free zone; a crate with a blanket draped overtop or a cozy dog bed in the bedroom are ideal options. Make sure that your pup is able to easily come and go from this space as they may injure themselves trying to escape if startled. Introduce them to your chosen safe area with treats or toys: this will bring comfort and help them feel more at ease.
Prepare your home
Your house is your dog’s safest place, so be sure to prep for impending firework displays. In addition to drawing curtains to help block out flashes of light, try to keep the radio or TV on to drown out the loud bangs and add a sense of familiarity. You can also place lavender scented items around your home to help soothe—use a spray or gently bruise the leaves and flowers of fresh plants (just keep ’em out of reach!).
Stay calm! Your dog can sense when you’re feeling panicky and will mirror your attitude, so it’s essential to keep your cool, even if they aren’t. Reassure your pet without giving them too much attention to avoid reinforcing the behavior for next time, and try to feed them before the fireworks start, as they might be too anxious to eat during the show. It’s also a good idea to go for walks or potty breaks BEFORE or AFTER the fireworks go off—there’s nothing harder to deal with than a panicked pup on leash!
Try calming aids
There are a number of products available to help keep dogs calm in frightening situations, and if you have the chance to try a few beforehand it will be a lifesaver to have something you know will work. Calming treats given prior to stressful events can help dogs stay relaxed without sedating them, and all-natural CBD extracts and biscuits have been known to reduce stress, anxiety, and discomfort associated with noise phobias with no side-effects.
Pressure-related calming devices may also be useful, like ThunderShirts, which employ constant, gentle pressure (like swaddling a baby) to help reduce anxiety and over-excitement.
Other precautions to keep in mind:
1. Find out when your neighborhood plans to hold their fireworks display to plan accordingly.
2. Please please please make sure your dog is wearing an ID tag in case they manage to escape, even if they’re microchipped (hey, better to be over-prepared, right?).
3. Beforehand, try to introduce your dog to similar noises slowly (with treats!). This will help reinforce the idea that there is nothing to be frightened of come fireworks night.
Stay safe, calm, and comfortable this 4th of July!