The Fourth of July is a fun, celebratory time — for humans, that is. For most dogs, the crash-boom-bang-flash of fireworks usually mean two things: what is that huge, scary noise, and how quickly can I get away from it?
If your dog is frightened of fireworks, there are several things you can do to alleviate his stress during this summertime holiday.
7 Signs of Stress
It’s not too difficult to tell when a dog — especially your dog — is in distress because of fireworks. According to the Animal Defense League, when the fireworks start up, a stressed dog will:
- Tremble or shake violently
- Drool excessively
- Bark or howl
- Try to hide
- Try to get in the house if he’s outside, or get outside if he’s inside
- Refuse to eat food
- Lose bladder or bowel control
What You Can Do
Loud noises, flashing lights and burning smells are not something your dog is probably accustomed to, so it makes sense that he’s a little (or a lot) freaked out by fireworks. According to the American Humane Association, July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters, because dogs panic at fireworks and run away from their homes, oftentimes becoming lost, injured or killed. Yikes!
To prevent your dog from becoming another post-Fourth of July statistic, here are several tips for keeping your dog as calm and safe as possible during the holiday.
- Keep your dog indoors.The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) — and, frankly, common sense — tells you that, if your dog is afraid of loud noises, and those loud noises are happening outside, then keep your dog inside. Not only does keeping your dog indoors lessen the sound of the booms and pops, but it also keeps your dog where you can see him, which lessens the chance that he’ll try to escape.
- Make Your House into an Oasis of Calm. Dim the lights, close the curtains to reduce the noise, and turn on some relaxing music or watch a little TV — anything that introduces a sound other than that of the fireworks happening outside.
- Don’t Take Your Dog to a Fireworks Display. This one is another no-brainer, but it has to be said! You might enjoy a night out watching professional pyrotechnics light up the sky, but your dog will not, so leave him at home. If your fireworks-frightened dog will be home alone on the fourth of July, be sure to keep him inside (or be sure he has access to the indoors) and make your house as comfortable for him as possible (see tip No. 2 above).
- Do Something Distracting. Bring out your dog’s favorite toys and play a game with him. Keeping his mind focused on something other than the end of the world, er, fireworks, happening outside will alleviate some stress.
- Be Friendly, but Don’t Fuss. It’s fine to pet your dog to comfort him, but anxiously stroking his head while repeating, “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK,” might instead produce an even more stressed-out dog. Dogs can pick up on our emotions, so try to stay calm yourself. Then, in an upbeat manner, occasionally give your dog a pat when he comes to you for comfort. Even better: If you catch him acting calm and collected, that’s the perfect time to smother him with affection.