Fireworks & Pets: Tips for a Low-Stress Holiday

By Molly Kenefick, Doggy Lama Pet Care, Dog walking company in Oakland, California
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Independence Day is just around the corner, and while we humans may love a good fireworks display, our dogs (and other pets, too) may feel as if those loud, unpredictable sounds signal the coming of the end of the world. Our dogs may suddenly do things we’ve never known them to do, but with a little preparation and forethought, we can make our nation’s birthday a relatively safe, easy, and relaxing holiday for us and our pets. Here are some tips to help ensure you and your dog have a low-stress holiday:

  • Never take your dog to a firework display.
  • If at all possible, be home with your dog when you think fireworks will be going off. No one wants to be alone when they’re afraid.
  • If you can’t stay home with your dog when fireworks are scheduled to go off, bring him inside. If your dog is terrified, he may be able to perform amazing feats of strength and agility—he may climb a fence you didn’t think he could climb, or dig underneath one when he’s never shown interest in digging before. Don’t take that chance.
  • To help drown out the sound of the fireworks, put on a classical music radio station, which is much more soothing than television. Start to leave that station on now when you go out—before the holiday—so that he gets used to it.
  • Make sure you leave plenty of water out. A stressed-out dog needs to drink extra water to stay cool.
  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise on the days around the fourth of July—a tired dog will be less anxious than one with plenty of energy and no way to express it.
  • Take your evening walk a bit earlier (before it gets dark)—you’ll be less likely to be caught outside your home or yard when there are fireworks going off in your neighbor’s backyard.
  • If your dog has an anxiety attack because of fireworks, do not soothe and comfort your dog. That sounds cruel, but rewarding an anxious animal with lots of touch and love is just reinforcing anxious behavior. It’s better to be cheerful and seem in control—that encourages your dog to think that whatever is happening is not a big deal.
  • Make sure your dog is wearing his identification at all times. Some owners remove collars when their dog is in the house. That’s usually fine to do, but a terrified dog may uncharacteristically bolt out the door when given an opportunity to do so. If your dog ends up on the street or in the pound, you want him to be wearing his identification. (Pets should be micro-chipped as well as wearing up-to-date identification tags.)
  • Have some Bach’s Rescue Remedy on hand. This is a safe, anti-anxiety flower remedy. Put a few drops in his water twice a day. (If possible, give your pets filtered water—an inexpensive Brita water filter is fine. Make sure you wash out pet food and water bowls at least every other day to reduce bacterial growth.) Another popular holistic remedy is a plug-in product, “Comfort Zone with Dog Appeasing Pheromone,” or D.A.P., said to reduce stress-related behavior.
  • Make your dog a cozy dark den to hide away in. Some dogs will follow their owners around the house and others will need to hide away. Put a blanket and a favorite toy in a closet in case your dog falls into the latter category.
  • If you’re home with your dog when fireworks are going off, you can try to entertain and distract your dog. You might break out the treat-filled Kong, the extra-special toys, or play hide-and-go-seek.
  • If you know a dog very well who isn’t afraid of fireworks, schedule an inside-at-night sleepover play-date with him. Your dog will get the message from the other dog that it’s not a big deal, and, coupled with your calm and confident behavior, will be much happier than otherwise. (You should only do this with a dog with whom you already have a very solid relationship with.)

Keep in mind that our neighbors and surrounding towns may be setting off fireworks in the days leading up to the Fourth of July and past that date. For that reason, pet-owners need to be vigilant for the days and nights surrounding the holiday.

Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful and safe holiday!