The Fourth of July can be super stressful for dogs — things like exploding fireworks and unusual crowds outside can throw them into a literal frenzy.
“Every year dogs jump through windows, break through screens, dig out of their houses and put holes in walls because they’re so frightened,” Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in New York City, told The Dodo.
In fact, July 4th is the most common day of the year for dogs to go missing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise — dogs don’t know the reason behind those giant bangs like we do, so when they hear them they think something really dangerous is happening.
It’s important to be prepared, so here are some vet-recommended Fourth of July tips for dogs to keep them calm and (relatively) stress-free this holiday.
Keep your pet calm and safe with these 4th of July tips for dogs
The best way to calm your dog from fireworks is to keep her at home. Even if you’re absolutely certain she’s OK with loud noises, even the calmest dogs can sometimes panic when they hear or see those big bangs.
Here’s how to make your home a dog-friendly space:
1. Plan extra exercise
According to Dr. Hohenhaus, it’s a good idea to plan extra exercise for your dog during the day on July 4th. “This is so she’s tired and will want to hit the sack early,” Dr. Hohenhaus said, which can make your pup less likely to react during the evening’s celebrations.
2. Provide a safe and familiar environment for sleeping
“The safest place is his crate,” Dr. Hohenhaus said. To try to filter out the sounds outside, it’s a good idea to close the windows — and don’t forget to close the curtains too to keep out flashes of light, which can also startle your pup. Provide some background noise — like a TV, radio or air conditioner — to drown out the booming fireworks.
3. Calming products are worth a try
According to Dr. Hohenhaus, using essential oils can help destress your dog. “Rub lavender oil on your dog’s ear flaps or use one of the pheromone products designed to mimic the comfort signals a mother dog sends to her puppies,” Dr. Hohenhaus said.
You can try one of these products:
You can also get a weighted anxiety jacket — like a ThunderShirt — for your dog. These hug your dog in all the right places, reducing stress and calming his nerves.
Another calming product to consider is a speaker made specifically for dogs. It taps into their amazing sense of hearing and plays calming music to ease all those anxious feelings.
4. Consider desensitization of your dog.
If you have enough time, you can try desensitizing your dog by playing a recording of firework noises while doing something fun with him, so he learns to associate the noises with good things.
“The volume is gradually increased while your dog becomes used to the noise,” Dr. Hohenhaus said. “If you need help with this endeavor, you should consider a consultation with a veterinary behavior specialist. This project requires time, and you have plenty of time to start now for next year.”
Extra precautions to keep your dog calm on the 4th:
While taking all of these steps can help ease your dog’s anxiety this July, it’s always good to be prepared just in case the worst happens and he does run away. Dr. Hohenhaus suggests taking some extra steps so you’re prepared to jump into action if your dog goes missing.
- Make sure that your dog is microchipped and registered with up-to-date contact information
- Make sure your dog’s tags are up-to-date
- Be sure you have a recent photo of your dog in case you need to make a lost pet poster
If you still have reason to worry, or if your dog has a history of serious anxiety or of panicking around fireworks, Dr. Hohenhaus recommends seeing your veterinarian to discuss using a tranquilizer or prescribed dog anxiety medication on the Fourth of July.
“Remember, your veterinarian will want to see your dog, get an accurate weight and determine the appropriate medication to prescribe,” Dr. Hohenhaus said.
With the above recommendations, hopefully you and your dog can have a calm and stress-free Fourth of July!