With the Fourth of July on its way, your brain is probably focused on backyard barbecues and which fireworks display you want to attend. The holiday is the perfect chance to take off work and have fun with friends and family, but remember that not everyone looks forward to America's birthday. The problem isn't that they're unpatriotic--it has to do with those colorful explosions in the sky. When the fireworks start, the furry and four-legged members of your family are more likely to panic and freak out than they are to stare up in awe and appreciation.
In fact, July 4th is the most dangerous day of the year to be a dog. The loud bangs and flashing lights are more than enough to send even the most confident dogs running for cover. Every year, dogs panic and jump through windows, escape through fences, slip their leashes, and spend the entire night feeling afraid and stressed. If you're a pup parent, it's your responsibility to care for your dog and help them make it through July 4th unharmed.
Here's how to do it.
1. Bring Your Dog Inside
If your dog typically spends a lot of time outside, July 4th is a day you definitely want to bring him inside. It doesn't matter if you have a fence or not. Once the commotion starts, dogs have been known to go to drastic measures to escape the noise. They feel afraid and confused, and that causes them to panic. All they want is to get away from what's scaring them, and they think if they run away, they might find safety. If your dog is outside when fireworks sound from nearby, there's nothing to muffle the bangs or block the sights.
2. Leave Your Dog at Home
Sitting on a blanket in a big field while you and your dog watch a dazzling fireworks display makes a pretty picture. The reality, however, is nothing like that.
Bringing your dog to a fireworks show is a bad idea even if he's never shown signs of being afraid of fireworks before. His feelings might change when he sees the spectacle up close, and that's not even considering the crowds of people (all in various stages of sobriety) and the overall risk of losing your dog at night. If you're heading out to see fireworks, leave your dog safe at home. Better yet, decide to stay home with your dog to keep an eye on him.
3. Use Proper Pet Identification
There's always the chance that your dog will panic because of fireworks and try to run away. If that happens, your best chance of getting him back safely is to make sure he's carrying appropriate identification. Make sure he's wearing his collar and have his registration tag attached. It's also a good idea to make your own pet ID tag that includes your dog's name and your contact information.
In addition to what he wears on his collar, you dog should also be microchipped. In case he loses his collar (or someone with malicious intent takes it off), he will always have his microchip to link him to you. Microchips have reunited hundreds of thousands of dogs with their rightful owners. If yours doesn't have one, head to the vet before the holiday to get one. They're inexpensive, and it takes only seconds to protect your pup.
4. Create a Safe Space in Your Home
When the world outside sounds like it's being attacked, your dog will need a secure place in your home where he feels safe. This way, he's less likely to feel the need to run away to escape the sound.
His safe place could be a crate, closet, or a homemade little den made out of blankets and pillows. It should be in the quietest area of the house away from all windows and doors.
5. Keep Them Busy
In an ideal world, your dog would either sleep through the fireworks shenanigans or be so distracted he doesn't even realize what's happening. Your best chance of scenario is to exercise your dog earlier in the day and to provide him with plenty of boredom-busting toys.
If you know your neighbors are planning to set off fireworks once the sun goes down, make a special effort during the day to exercise your dog. That way when the countdown starts, your pup will be too tired to care. If napping isn't an option, distracting toys like Kongs and puzzles will keep your dog's mind off the festivities.
6. Take Additional Measures if Necessary
If you've lived with your dog for a while, you have a good idea about what bugs him, what scares him, and what makes him feel safe. You might already know that fireworks freak him out. In that case, you should go the extra mile to make sure this Fourth of July causes as little physical and emotional damage as possible. Here are a few ideas that help nervous dogs make it through fireworks.
- Thundershirts are special vests that wrap around your dog's body to make them feel calm and comforted. You can buy one or make one yourself.
- White noise can help drown out scary sounds. Playing the TV or radio a little louder than normal might help.
- CBD oil is often used to help relieve anxiety in dogs.
- Make sure all curtains are closed in your house and block off access to screens, doors, and other potential escape routes.
It's completely fine to want to celebrate July Fourth in the usual American-fashion. But remember, as a pup parent, you have a responsibility to keep your dog safe. It might take extra effort or sacrifice on your part, but your dog's health and safety are worth it.