visually delightful for humans, 4th of July fireworks are a source of anxiety for most dogs. a few lucky breeds are in the minority, such as hunting dogs who are accustom to the sound of gun shots and smells of explosives, but generally speaking if you have a dog – they are going to lose it during fireworks.
we realize ‘lose it’ is a loose term, so let me clarify. the nervous behaviors dogs exhibit during firework displays are seemingly limitless. from noticeable anxiety manifested in shaking and cowering to constant barking and destructive behavior, all dogs react differently to this loud independence day tradition. remember that to your dog, fireworks are much more disruptive than thunder as it is closer to the ground and paired with bright light and smells. the good news is there are a variety of ways to support your dog during this annual experience.
arrange to have your dog stay at a familiar alternative location such as a dog sitter’s home or doggy day care if you are setting off fireworks on your property. if the alternative location is unfamiliar, make a few practice visits before the 4th of July stay. this solution is fool-proof in that your dog never gets the chance to lost it, but it is only a short-term solution.
if you are unable to take him to a firework-free location make a safe space within the quietest room of your home (likely the basement), so your dog can hideout when the booms begin. a crate is ideal, but if you do not have one you can use furniture and blankets to create a den-like environment. the sense of enclosure with naturally soothe him, as will calming reassurances that everything is going to be ok. add in a special treat, his favorite toy, and a bed that smells like you and he will be set up for success!
the very best way to prepare your dog for this annual occurrence is getting him used to the sound of fireworks, creating a positive association in your dog’s mind. for 3-4 months prior to independence day, play a firework soundtrack increasing volume over time. while this is the most time-consuming solution, acclimatizing your dog to loud noises is a long-term solution. (if you are lucky enough to adopt a puppy you can start exposing them to loud noises at 3 months, so thunder, fireworks and other loud noises will not even phase them later in life!)
most importantly, during firework displays remain calm. if you are anxious or reactionary to the fireworks, you will confirm your dog’s sense of fear and exacerbate the problem. if at all possible keep things business as usual, supporting your dog with soothing reassurances and lots of love until the event is over… until next year.