Dogs and The 4th of July

For many Americans, the 4th of July is a time to celebrate, and that celebration can include anything from a quiet barbeque with friends to banging pots and pans and setting off screaming fireworks around the neighborhood. This type of activity is a ton of fun for adults and kids, but, as you can imagine, not-so-much-fun for our pups!

So, as we gear up for another 4th of July extravaganza, let's keep a few things in mind to make sure our dogs get through the day with their spirits intact.

If you know your dog is fearful of loud noises, fireworks or if this is your dog's first 4th of July and you're not sure how he will react, I highly recommend you stay home this year.

If you are leaving for the night to enjoy fireworks or festivities outside your own backyard:

  • I'd suggest leaving your dog inside your home in a secure area. Give him plenty of toys, maybe a special treat to keep him occupied and distracted from all the noise and commotion outside. I suggest leaving the tv or radio on high volume to help drown out some of the noise.
  • If you must leave your dog outside, be absolutely sure your gates and fences are secure just in case your dog gets spooked and tries to escape.
  • I believe dogs should always wear a collar with tags, but, on this night in particular, it is very important.

If you decide to stay home, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If your dog is reacting to the loud noises in a fearful or anxious way, fight your instincts to coddle or baby him.  I know it feels like petting him and saying “It’s ok” is the right thing to do but this can actually nurture the dog's fear and make it worse. You see, you can’t soothe the dog if you are coming across as fearful or insecure yourself. Fear is contagious. Even though you may only be worried for your dog’s wellbeing, dogs can sense the fear and assume you are also afraid of the fireworks. On the other hand, if you are honestly in a calm, confident state and say, “Take it east, don’t worry about.” you may actually be able to sooth the dog with a little massage but that’s a totally different vibe, isn’t it? Giving your dog some direction to stay by your side and settle down is a far cry from babying the dog and trying to explain that the war going on outside is “ok.” You must lead by example and behave as if it’s not a big deal. If you are not in a good emotional state, don’t touch your dog. 
  • If your dog is in a panic, running around the house or pacing back and forth, you can put him on leash or tether him to a piece of furniture or banister nearby.  This will limit his ability to continue to get worked up and interrupt his frenzied behavior.
  • Redirect your dog's focus. If you notice your dog is reacting to the kids banging pots and pans outside or the loud rocket blasters down the street, you can redirect his focus by playing with him, doing tricks with him or allowing him to enjoy a stuffed kong full of some wet dog food or peanut butter. 

If your plans are taking you out of the house and you aren't sure how your dog will react, you can always hire a pet sitter.

What it really boils down to is, know your dog and do what is right to have a safe and fun 4th of July!

-Chad Culp, Certified Dog Trainer and Canine Behavior Consultant

© Thriving Canine 2006

Related Topics:

Fear and Fireworks: Is it Ok to Comfort a Fearful Dog?

Dogs and Halloween

Hosting the Holidays with Fido

Dogs and Holidays

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions: How To Incorporate Your Dog

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