With the Fourth of July holiday just around the corner, it’s time again for pet owners and fosters to take a little time to figure out how best to keep their furry friends calm and safe during fireworks.
If your pet isn’t a fan of fireworks, be sure to have a plan in place. If you have recently adopted a dog or are fostering a pet who hasn’t experienced fireworks yet, you should err on the side of caution and have those same plans in place – always better to be prepared and not need it, rather than the reverse.
Here are some tips to help you and your animal pals get through a night (or two or three) of pesky fireworks.
Before the Fireworks:
You can start preparing your dog now for the stress of fireworks nights. For instance, you can use the days leading up to it to help your dog get used to being calmed by music. Choose albums like Through a Dog’s Ear, the Canine Noise Phobia series, or other albums specifically designed to reduce canine anxiety (available on iTunes and streaming services). Begin playing the music now, at times the dog is already feeling peaceful and relaxed, so that they will begin to associate the music with being calm and content.
On the night you expect fireworks, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day.
Later, play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start, and continue to play until things go quiet and the fireworks have definitely stopped.
If you’re having friends and family over to celebrate the holiday, be extra cautious with their arrivals to ensure that it doesn’t stress out your dog. Always introduce any new arrivals or “strangers” to your dog to let them know that you approve of their presence. No matter how the celebration is going, make sure your dog can stay in their usual space – “banishing” them can upset their routine and put them on edge before the fireworks even begin.
During the Fireworks
Keep your dog(s) indoors during fireworks, preferably with human companionship. Do not bring your pets with you to watch fireworks if you’re going outside or to an event!
It’s important for dogs to have a safe place inside to “retreat” if they get over-stimulated. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs often prefer small enclosed areas. If your dog is comfortable in a crate, that is a good option. If possible, keep the windows and curtains closed as well, or, if that’s not an option, covering the crate or lowering the blinds can also be helpful – removing visual stimulation can have a calming effect.
You can use a white noise machine or a loud fan to help drown out the sounds with neutral noise. A tactile sensation can help, too; use a canine wrap like a Thunder Shirt and ear muffs made specifically for dogs. You might also consider using dog appeasing pheromones (for example, Adaptil) and natural calming products like Storm Stress and Rescue Remedy.
Give your dog(s) something fun to do or focus on, like a frozen Kong filled with their favorite treats, to keep them distracted and happy. Regardless of their normal habits, don’t let your dog go potty outside alone once the fireworks begin. Use a secure leash and collar.
Just in case, make sure all your dogs are wearing ID tags (for a foster, that means the Angels Among Us tag plus a tag with your contact info) with a properly fitting collar. Dogs that have never escaped before become Houdini during fireworks! A frightened, startled dog can bust through a glass door, run through a fence (which often results in being injured), and escape a yard. When the fireworks start, your dog should be within your sight until they stop.
With these tips in mind, you and your animals can hopefully have a safe, low-stress, and fun Fourth of July!