The 4th of July is coming fast, and with it fireworks. A beautiful and enjoyable occasion for humans might be a frightening and noisy occasion for your dog. When the holiday season comes around, try to gauge your dog's reaction to loud noises. If your dog acts scared, you might need to prepare ahead for a rough night and keep a close eye on it once the 4th of July rolls around.
One of the best ways to keep your dog calm during Fourth of July fireworks is to get him desensitized to those loud noises months ahead of time. If you can play firework noises randomly from time to time before July hits, your dog will be less likely to be scared or surprised it fireworks go on Independence Day. You can find sounds of fireworks on Youtube here. Just start out soft and then gradually increase the sound over time as your dog gets used to the noises.
If you don't have the lead time to do that this year, try to prepare ahead for next year and for this year try some tips to keep your dog calm during the celebration.
Keeping Your Dog Calm
1. Stay Home If You Can.
If at all possible, you should stay home with your dog during the peak of fireworks, especially it is a new or young dog and you are not sure how the dog will react to fireworks. If you are home, the dog will likely be less fearful and calm than if your dog is home alone.
2. Get Your Dog Really Tired
If the dog has less energy, he'll be less prone to panic during the night. The more tired and calm your dog is, the less likely your dog will be to run around or run away.
Try walking or exercising your dog earlier in the day, before the festivities begin. Try to keep him leashed for the walk since folks tend to play around with fireworks at all times during Fourth of July holidays and you don't want him running off during your walk.
3. Bring Your Dog Inside
If you normally keep your dog outside, it might be best to keep your dog indoors during the celebration. It will put your dog at ease, keep the barking to a minimum and reduce the risk of him jumping the fence and running into the streets.
If you need to keep your dog outside, be sure to keep an eye out for pranksters and hoodlums that might try to scare your dog. People have been known to throw firecrackers near the dog to get a reaction, so just be mindful that people may think it is funny to try to scare your dog.
Make sure your dog has a collar with tags with current info of how you can be reached in case your dog runs away.
4. Keep The Windows, Doors, And Curtains Closed
Keeping everything closed will muffle noise and keep your dog from seeing flashing lights that might scare him further. Avoid setting any fireworks off close to the house.
5. Turn On The TV Or Radio
This will not only help to muffle the bangs and booms going on outside, but provide a constant source of noise might distract or otherwise calm your dog. Soothing music works best. Try playing the music a couple of hours before the festivities start, so your dog can begin to associate it with peace and comfort.
Sometimes, turning on the air conditioner or a fan to help muffle noises can also be helpful.
6. Get A Blanket
Sometimes a cover, such as a blanket, will help calm the dog down. It can help him feel more comfortable and protected. If he has a "safe place" that he normally enjoys, keeping him there during the peak of noise will be a good idea.
7. Give Him A Treat
Giving your dog a treat or his favorite toy after a particularly loud noise can help him associate the noises with positive things. Just don't overdo it, or the dog might exhibit bad behavior to get attention. You can also try to distract them by playing your favorite games with your dog. Or just cuddle with your dog and give him a nice massage. You can even try giving your dog a doggie facial to distract your dog. If you give your dog facials or massages a few times before the Fourth, your dog may be instantly calmer when you give them one during fireworks.
8. If The Dog Hides, Let Him
If your dog gets scared enough to hide under a table, or beneath a bed, don't attempt to pull him out. This might stress the dog further, resulting in a more negative association with the fireworks.
9. Stay Calm Yourself
Be sure to stay calm when you're around the dog. A dog will naturally react to your behavior, so acting panicky or excited around the dog will only make matters worse. If you're having a lot of people over, try keeping the celebration outside.
10. Try Other Ways To Calm Your Dog
If you are still concerned about your dogs reaction to fireworks, you can also try these possible remedies.
If you think it may help, you can also try giving your dog warm or chilled chamomile tea to drink or use chamomile tea in a warm compress to wipe down your dog. (You should always test first to make sure your dog is not allergic.) Since chamomile is well known as a mild calming sedative, it may help your dog stay a bit calmer.
You can try giving your dog Benadryl to help your dog stay calm and feel drowsy. As with any medications, you should check with your vet before giving your dog medications. Normally, the suggested dosage of for oral Benadryl is 1 mg per pound of body weight, given 2-3 times a day. Most drug store diphenhydramine tablets are 25 mg, which is the size used for a 25 pound dog according to PetMD.
If you can prepare for the fireworks a few weeks ahead, you and your dog will be in much better shape for your next Fourth of July celebration.
If your dog is likely to be extremely panicky or irritable, it's possible to
buy mild tranquilizers from the local veterinarian.
There are also over-the-counter herbal remedies and relaxants available to help your dog make it
through the night. They have varying levels of effectiveness but for sensitive dogs, they can make a big difference in keeping your dog calmer. (See also our article on Keeping Dogs Calm With Adaptil Pheremones.)
Another thing you may want to consider if your dog tends to get agitated is get a Thundershirt to help keep your dog calm. You can read more about the Anxiety Calming Thundershirt here and read reviews for it here. Most people find them very helpful in calming down anxious dogs.
Following these steps will help to soothe any panic your dog feels during the 4th of July. So do you have any tips for keeping your dog calm during the holidays?
TIPS: If you are going to be out walking with your dog, make sure to check out my tips on how to protect your dogs paws from hot pavement. If you are taking your dog near water this Fourth of July, make sure you think about whether your dog needs a life vest and tips of finding a good life vest for your dog.
Originally published July 2012 and updated June 2016.