Here comes the 4th of July!
4th of July will be amazing ... Unless you’re a dog.
A dog doesn't know what the 4th of July is and they don’t know about celebrations. While people are in awe of pyrotechnics, dogs are in a state of panic.
And if they believe where they are, has something to do with loud bangs, they will look to flee. And may not come back. According to animal shelters and lost pet finders, such as PetAmberAlert, there’s a 30-to-60 percent increase in lost pets each year between July 4 and 6th.
To make sure your dog is not on the wrong side of that number, here are a few tips to prepare your dog for the firework celebrations.
Expose your Dog Early and Give Positive Association to the Sounds (before 4th of July)
Dogs are scared of fireworks not just from the sounds of fireworks themselves, but also because they have nothing to associate it with.
Imagine if you’re sitting in your house reading a book, and suddenly a strange noise you’ve never heard screeches across the sky with purple trailing behind.You’d be jarred too because you wouldn’t know what it is. It’s the same with a dog, they’re scared of the unknown.
So, as a dog owner, you can prepare your dog for the firework sounds by associating the sounds with something positive. To do this find an app such as Sound Proof Puppy Training App, or firework sound effects on YouTube. Attach it to a wireless speaker and place it outside. When the dog eats or does something it enjoys, play the sounds. Start low at first, and then increase the volume over the next few days. Doing this will train the dog to associate the sound of fireworks with something good.
For a bonus you can use this with other sounds (i.e. Electric tools, honking horns, electric tools) as well.
Doing this in the days leading up to the 4th of July will help. But ideally, if you have a puppy, the first few months of its life is about exposure and wonderment. So if you can desensitize them early on before the fear stage, the better the outcome.
Seeing (the fireworks) is Understanding
In many cases, the fireworks are just so loud or frightening that minimizing the damage to the dog is the best we can do.
But for show fireworks, if you bring the dog to the event and they can see what’s actually causing the sounds they hear, it will turn the unknown to understanding.
It’s similar to when you first walked your dog and a large truck or bus was coming at them. Most likely they were scared. But when the dog realized it just drove by, or turned before it hit them, it was less scary. When the dogs see where the firework sounds are coming from and realize it isn’t a threat, the fear factor subsides as well.
Put Dog in Comfortable Surroundings (During 4th of July)
Because we know the majority of the fireworks are going to come on July 4th after it gets dark, we can prepare the dog just prior. Put the dog in an inside room in their crate or bed if possible. Surround it with their favorite toys. Try to turn on some “white noise” such as a television or music to drown out the sounds. And if you’re with them while the fireworks are going off, try to distract them with food, toys, or play time.
If you don’t have a place to put them, or you are bringing them with you, consider buying a calming cap or something to cover their ears to drown out the noise or keep them calm.
Hope for the Best by Preparing for the Worst on 4th of July
We never “expect” kids to get to the medicine cabinet and ingest the drugs. But there are child safety caps just in case.
Nobody that lost their dog on the 4th of July planned it.
So, please, prior to the fireworks, make sure the premises are secure. If you have gates, double check they are latched. Holes under the fence that you thought were not big enough for a dog to get under, might be a different story if they’re “running for their lives.”
If you are going somewhere else for 4th of July, walk the dog around that neighborhood so they know where they are and how to get back. Make sure your dog has a microchip, and it’s up to date should it get away. And if you’re taking the dog outside during the fireworks, keep your dog leashed up at all times. The e-collar that pulled your dog away from a squirrel might not be as effective when a loud BANG goes off.
Please, enjoy your 4th of July. It will be spectacular, even if the only thing you do is get out and spend time with your loved ones. Just make sure your four-legged companion stays calm and is anxiety free as much as possible.
As we celebrate the 4th of July, it's important to remember that fireworks can be distressing for dogs. To help keep them safe and calm, we recommend exposing them to firework sounds early on and associating them with positive experiences. Visual exposure to the source of the fireworks can also alleviate fear.
Creating a comfortable environment with familiar surroundings and distractions like toys and "white noise" can provide comfort during the celebrations. Taking precautions to secure your premises and ensuring your dog is leashed can prevent them from running away.
Lastly, keeping your dog's microchip up to date and familiarizing them with the neighborhood if celebrating elsewhere adds an extra layer of safety. By following these tips, you can help your furry friends have a happy and anxiety-free 4th of July.
Devon MacDonald is the founder of Next Gen Aussies Collies and Shepherds which serves the Bay Area. Her business specializes in obedience, advance obedience, trick training, agility, leash reactivity, anxiety around people, and dog aggression. Next Gen ACS most popular program is it's board and train program which is available for both well-behaved dogs and ones with behavioral issues. Devon currently lives in Morgan Hill, California with her Mini-Australian Shepherd Cypress. Besides dogs, she has a passion for swimming, traveling and great wine.