4th of July fireworks can be stressful for many dogs, especially those who are sensitive to noise. Some animal shelters report that this is the busiest time since they are inundated with animals who escaped from yards or slipped away from their owners in a panic. If thunderstorms are stressful for your dog, it is likely that the noise and vibration from fireworks will bother them as well.
How to tell if your dog is stressed: panting, pacing, yawning, trembling, lethargy, loss of appetite, walking in circles, snuggling up very close to you and trying to hide are all canine stress signals. Try your best to comfort and distract your dog but often, they will not relax until after the fireworks end and some may not feel better until the next day.
Here are some tips to try to keep your dog calm this 4th of July:
Give your dog plenty of exercise a few hours before fireworks are scheduled to start. If your dog is tired, he will have less energy to spend on being stressed.
Feed your dog less than you typically would during fireworks day and prepare some food puzzles (such as the Kong) to give your dog shortly before the fireworks start. If your dog is hungry and engaged in a fun activity, he is less likely to pay attention to what’s going on outside. If your dog does not typically eat from puzzles, test some out a week ahead of time to make sure your dog knows how to use them. Stop in Hound About Town for Kongs or recommendations for treats to use in them.
Don’t take your dog to a fireworks display.
Do not leave your dog in the car. Temperatures inside a car on a hot day (or evening) can reach over 100 quickly even with the windows open. Imagine sitting in a car with a fur coat on in the summer. Dogs can die from becoming overheated in a hot car. Dogs can also become destructive while attempting to escape an enclosed area when stressed.
Keep your dog indoors and stay home with him/her if possible. If you are going out, leave him/her in a safe, secure area and close all windows. If you have an air conditioner, leave it running as the noise and cool temperature will help. Leave the television or music as background noise. Let your dog wander and try to find a place where he feels safe.
Make sure your dog has up to date identification tags and is wearing a properly fitted collar. If your dog is not microchipped, this would be a good time to do it. Dogs who are extremely stressed can wiggle out of a too loose collar.
Some people have success with homeopathic remedies such as Rescue Remedy, Melatonin, Calm Shen and others, available at Hound About Town, given about an hour prior. Other dogs have good results with Thundershirts, anxiety wraps or any tight shirt. If your vet practices acupuncture, try to get an appointment that week and ask if any herbal supplements could be helpful. Some dogs who have extreme reactions need the help of anti-anxiety medications. If you are concerned about your dog, contact your vet to discuss options asap. Please note that Acepromazine is not a good option because it and can heighten sensitivity to sounds.
Jennifer Murray earned an Honors Certificate in Training and Counseling from The San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers. She has also completed intensive programs in Dog Aggression and Curriculum Design. Her experience includes fostering puppies as well as adult dogs with behavior issues, training and evaluating shelter dogs, developing and teaching public classes as well as providing private training sessions for clients. She currently lives in Laguna Beach, CA with her husband, 2 young sons and 2 rescue dogs. She is also Wiley’s favorite Aunt.