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Tips for Dogs Scared of Fireworks

Tips for Dogs Scared of Fireworks

The Fourth of July is a celebratory time for family backyard barbecues, enjoying the summer weather and jaw-dropping fireworks displays.

But for our dogs, the summer holiday can be a stressful time full of loud, foreign noises that can create anxiety.

“Holidays can be a chaotic and stressful time of year, especially for pets,” says Dr. Peter Lands, director of Emergency and Critical Care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center.

To keep your dog safe this Fourth of July, follow these tips to help dogs cope with fireworks and other stressors.

family and dog outdoors

Learn the signs of stress in dogs

One of the first things pet parents can do prior to the Fourth of July holiday is to learn the signs of stress in dogs. This will help pet parents identify when their four-legged companions are feeling uncomfortable or anxious.

“Stress and anxiety can cause pets to exhibit a number of signs that you may not be used to seeing on a daily basis,” says Lands.

Some of these signs may include:

  • Shaking
  • Tremoring
  • Cowering
  • Licking their lips
  • Hiding
  • Pacing
  • Urinating or defecating indoors
  • Excessive salivating
  • Whale eye (showing the whites of their eyes)
  • Vomiting

It’s best to work with your veterinarian or a trained behaviorist to confront the triggers and prepare accordingly.

“If your pet is displaying signs of anxiety, it is best to follow up with your family veterinarian to discuss a complete medical and behavioral approach to the problem,” says Lands.

Focus on training

If pet parents recognize signs of stress in their dogs, they can work with a behaviorist or trainer prior to the holiday to help pets learn coping behaviors.

“Introduce different types of noises to your dog,” says Lina Eklof, BSc, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Eval., Fear Free animal trainer and manager of dog training education at Petco. “Start off at a low volume and create positive associations by giving your dog lots of attention, treats or play—whatever your dog highly values. Working with your dog using positive reinforcement-based training, can increase your dog’s confidence and lead to being more comfortable in various settings.”

While working on normalizing certain situations to your pet is important, Lands adds that it’s just as vital for pet parents to make sure their dogs understand and can offer cued behaviors.

“It can be very helpful—not just around the holidays—to make sure your pets know basic cues to behaviors like sit, stay, come and down,” he says.

Provide your dog a safe space

If you know fireworks will go off in your neighborhood, it may be best to provide your dog with a safe space, away from all of the action. “Keeping your pet safe during the Fourth of July is simple: Avoidance is key,” says Lands.

If your dog does not exhibit signs of separation anxiety, setting up a bedroom or a bathroom for your pet may encourage them to relax and unwind on their own. Play soothing music or leave a TV on in the background as a distraction to other noises that may be occurring in the background.

Dogs that have been crate-trained may seek out their crate. “Pets that have a crate, bed or blanket they love find these to be safe spaces,” says Lands. “Make sure that they are able to easily access these spaces during events that may be stressful for them.”

Outfit the room with your dog’s favorite toys—especially interactive treat toys—and make sure they have a comfortable bed and access to fresh water. Check on your dog periodically throughout the night to make sure they are comfortable.

dog in crate

Consider anti-anxiety medications and other solutions for dogs

If your dog is especially prone to stress, ask your veterinarian about medications that can help your dog cope with fireworks anxiety.

“There are many short-term anti-anxiety medications that are available as a prescription that are safe and effective for pets and should only be used under the direct supervision of a veterinarian,” says Lands. If your pet has shown extreme stress with loud noises, be sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to ask about these anti-anxiety dog medications.

Additionally, there are some over-the-counter anti-anxiety remedies for dogs that can help during Fourth of July fireworks. These include:

Calming supplements for dogs: Often including ingredients such as hemp, melatonin, thiamine and L-tryptophan, these supplements come in chews, tablets and drops and are formulated to help keep your pet calm. Lands further emphasizes that “the ingredient L-theanine has been proven to be effective in research studies.”

Calming wrap for dogs: A t-shirt or vest-like apparel that provides gentle pressure around your pet that produces a calming effect on their nervous system which helps relieve dog anxiety and reduce many stress-related behaviors.
dog wearing thundershirt
Calming sprays and diffusers: These products can be sprayed onto a pet’s bedding, into the air or be plugged into a wall to diffuse calming pheromones into the air.

Be sure to talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any new medications, anti-anxiety supplements or introducing new products into their environment.

 

Microchip your dog

Lastly, don't forget to microchip your dog prior to the Fourth of July. With animal control officials across the nation reporting a 30% increase in lost pets each year between July 4 and 6, having your dog microchipped with your current contact information will help get them home quickly and safely.

“During high-stress holidays like the Fourth of July, pets have an increased tendency to run away,” says Lands. “With over 10 million pets going missing every year, microchips are a safe and effective way of finding our missing animals.”

Microchips are radio-frequency identification transponders that carry a unique number specific to your pet. They are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted underneath your pet’s skin.

“If your pet is lost and brought to a veterinary facility or shelter, they will be able to scan your pet’s chip, search their specific number, and look up your contact information in a national database,” says Lands.

If you already have your pet microchipped, take a moment to review the information on file and ensure that it is up to date. And remember, a microchip should always be in addition to your pet’s everyday collar and I.D. tag.

The Fourth of July can be a fun and enjoyable holiday for all members of your family, including your pets, as long as certain preparations are taken to ensure that your dog feels safe and secure despite the potential raucous festivities.

Microchip your dog

Lastly, don't forget to microchip your dog prior to the Fourth of July. With animal control officials across the nation reporting a 30% increase in lost pets each year between July 4 and 6, having your dog microchipped with your current contact information will help get them home quickly and safely.

“During high-stress holidays like the Fourth of July, pets have an increased tendency to run away,” says Lands. “With over 10 million pets going missing every year, microchips are a safe and effective way of finding our missing animals.”

Microchips are radio-frequency identification transponders that carry a unique number specific to your pet. They are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted underneath your pet’s skin.

“If your pet is lost and brought to a veterinary facility or shelter, they will be able to scan your pet’s chip, search their specific number, and look up your contact information in a national database,” says Lands.

If you already have your pet microchipped, take a moment to review the information on file and ensure that it is up to date. And remember, a microchip should always be in addition to your pet’s everyday collar and I.D. tag.

The Fourth of July can be a fun and enjoyable holiday for all members of your family, including your pets, as long as certain preparations are taken to ensure that your dog feels safe and secure despite the potential raucous festivities.