The 4th of July is Coming Up… How To Calm Your Dog During Fireworks This Fourth of July

October 15, 2022 / Seasonal / By: Melanie Evans

A dog running scared and traumatized by fireworks during celebrations

For most humans in the US, the 4th of July is one of the most anticipated, and exciting holidays on the calendar.

While Memorial Day is often considered to be the unofficial start of the summer in the US, the real start of the summer is June 21st in 2022, and the first opportunity to really celebrate will be that first weekend in July.

Usually with big get-togethers, tons of food and lots of fireworks.

While your pup may not mind, and would probably enjoy, the extra people and the extra food the vast majority of dogs hate fireworks, and that hate, which is really fear, turns a happy holiday into a nightmare for many pups.

And for pet parents, too, if their dog becomes one of the many pups who go missing over the Fourth of July weekend. Missing pet reports increase by 30-60% nationwide, and the blame can almost always be placed squarely on fireworks.

As you won't be able to stop your neighbors from setting off their 4th of July fireworks, and you may even want to stage a big light show yourself, making a plan to comfort and safeguard your pup ahead of the big holiday weekend is a must.

While we are sure you want your pup to enjoy the delights of summer as much as you do - they are a member of the family, after all - you should be prepared to help him do so safely.

Here, we are going to take a closer look at the best ways to do that this upcoming holiday weekend, as well as why 4th of July fireworks are so frightening for dogs in the first place.

Why Are Dogs Frightened by Fireworks?

A dog is hiding under the sofa and afraid to come out. The concept of dog's anxiety about thunderstorm, fireworks and loud noises.

The unfortunate fact is that there are a number of reasons that the fireworks that delight humans so much terrify most dogs, including all the following:

Fireworks are loud

Most fireworks are loud, and that's often part of the fun for humans.

Those big rockets are supposed to be noisy! However, as a dog's hearing is a lot better than a human's. Dogs are capable of hearing approximately twice as many frequencies as people.

They can also hear noises from four times further away than human ears, so what we can hear from 20 feet away, they can hear from 80 feet away.

This can often mean, on 4th of July weekend, your pup can hear fireworks being set off from blocks away, even if you can't.

Fireworks are unpredictable

If you begin to hear big bangs on Fourth of July weekend, then you just know that the celebrations have started and while one might make you jump, you'll know exactly what it is and why you are hearing it.

Your pup does not know anything about this - the 4th means nothing to her - and so will just become more and more afraid as they go off.

Fireworks trigger a fight or flight response in dogs.

There is one big reason that so many dogs (and cats) run away and become lost on the 4th of July.

Many dogs see fireworks as a threat because of their volume and unpredictability. Their fight-or-flight reaction is triggered as a result of this. Your dog may bark in response to the noises or attempt to flee and hide. Even if they have been trained not to, if they have a way to get out of their house or out of their yard, the chances are that they will.

He may also exhibit additional anxiety symptoms such as restlessness, panting, pacing, and whining. None of which is fun for either of you.

How to Comfort Your Dog on the 4th of July - and Maybe Even Help Him Enjoy It

Preparation is the biggest key to keeping your dog safer and less stressed over the big July Fourth weekend, in conjunction with some extra love.

Here is a look at some of the most effective ways you can comfort your pup on July 4th, and help ensure that he's still safe at home on Tuesday morning. 

Plan a Safe Space for Your Pup to Spend the Weekend, Preferably Indoors

Puppy dog sleeping with plush toy

The Fourth of July weekend is a busy one for most people, and much of it will probably be spent outside, at BBQs, parties and yes, fireworks displays.

The best place for your pup to spend the weekend however will be a safe space where he can find some peace and quiet, preferably indoors, at home.

If you will be home for much of the time, be prepared for your pup to want to stick by your side. If you are going out, having him tag along may not be the best idea, even if he usually does.

Many of the pets that do go missing over this holiday weekend do so when they run away scared from a gathering. Even if there are no fireworks planned for the event you are attending, going back to your dog's superior hearing, fireworks nearby may still scare him into running off.

If your pup will be home alone for a few hours while you head off to enjoy the fun and fireworks, you can help him by some of the tips that will follow. And if he does venture outdoors - for his daily walk for example - he should be leashed and supervised at all times.

Desensitize Your Pup Slowly Prior to the 4th July Celebrations

Dog wearing headphones, desensitizing pets being afraid of loud noises of fireworks

While you can't quite sit down and explain to your dog what fireworks are, or why he should not be afraid, you can take some simple steps to desensitize him to the kinds of loud bangs they make.

In the days leading up to the big holiday weekend, try making use of videos on YouTube, or a soundscapes app on your smartphone or smart assistant device to slowly introduce the sound of fireworks. When you do, make sure that you are nearby and that you offer you pup comfort when the noises begin to spook him.

Don't make these sessions too long, and don't expect miracles - the noise from the TV or speaker isn't quite the same as the 'real thing', but this may help your pup feel less alarmed and anxious when the fireworks do start going off for real. 

Stick to Daytime Leashed Walks To Keep Your Dog Safe

A black and white siberian husky with blue eyes walking with a harness

In theory, fireworks should be confined to nighttime use over the holiday weekend only, and, in some states personal fireworks displays are technically illegal (as is the purchase of fireworks in general). The reality is however that people set off fireworks throughout the weekend, even in the day, and they certainly do not confine their use to the 'big day'.

This means that any walking you do with your pup should be confined to leashed walks during the day, preferably in a quieter area. However obedient your pup is usually when allowed to walk off leash, the loud bangs fireworks make are often enough to make even the best trained dog flee in fright, and the last thing any pet parent wants to do over the holiday weekend is spend it combing the neighborhood for their lost pet.

Make Sure Your Dog's ID and Microchip Information Is Up-to-Date In Case He Bolts

Many of the dogs that do run away over the holiday weekend are found by others, and often turned in at shelters or vet's offices but then cannot be reunited with their owners because they do not have an ID tag on their collar or microchip, or those details are out of date.

As an extra measure of caution - and it's a good idea in general - take the time now to ensure that if your pup is microchipped - and they really should be - the information is up-to-date and that they have a clear, up-to-date ID tag on their collar including a dog GPS tracker.

Some iPhone owners are also going a step further and making use of an AirTag to track their pet. If you haven't seen them, AirTags they are small, circular devices that allow you to track anything they are attached to from the Find My iPhone feature, offering pet parents a way to track their pup at all times.

Ready You Dog With a ThunderShirt to Calm Him During Fireworks

To help your pup feel more secure, and less anxious, when fireworks are going off all over their neighborhood having them wear a ThunderShirt might be very helpful.

A ThunderShirt is an all natural relaxation garment that can help dogs relax without the use of drugs. It's a canine anxiety vest that, when worn, delivers gentle, constant pressure to soothe all forms of anxiety, panic, and over-excitement concerns in dogs, similar to swaddling a newborn.

Thunderstorms, fireworks, travel and vet appointments are all reasons for a dog to wear a ThunderShirt. Some pet parents have even reported that it can be helpful with a far more common problem: separation anxiety.

Make Sure There are Plenty of Treats and Toys Available To Keep Your Pup Occupied

Boxer puppy chewing on a dog food bone

The scary sound of fireworks crashing all around him may make your pup feel like he has done something wrong, and this seemingly apocalyptic series of events is somehow their fault.

Again, it's hard to explain to your pup that it isn't, but you can make him feel better about the whole weekend by making sure that he has plenty of fun toys and tasty treats available!

There is another reason to give your pup a nice chewy bone - or chew toy - in times of stress that goes beyond offering them a treat. The act of chewing is a great self-soothing mechanism for dogs, so if they must be left alone for a while over the holiday weekend leaving them safely at home with a long-lasting chew bone, or an engaging chew toy can help keep them calm too.

Some pet parents are also choosing to try out one of the increasing number of calming chews that are available right now. There is little scientific evidence that these work, but some pet parents say they are very effective.

Most are formulated with natural, harmless ingredients and are safe for most dogs if you would like to have your pup try them out, but if it's their first time doing so, and they are prone to food allergies or stomach issues, you may want to check with your vet first.

Don't Overlook Other Fourth of July Hazards 

Pet Safety - A Family with dog having barbecue together on backyard on summer day

Fireworks are not the only things you should be concerned about on the Fourth of July, and for the summer as a whole, when it comes to your pup's health and safety.

For example, summer BBQs, which for most of us kick into high gear on the Fourth and then carry on right through Labor Day, are something your pup will probably love. All that tasty smelling food! To a dog, while those terrible fireworks are scary and unpleasant, the idea of 'attending' a BBQ likely seems like nothing but tasty fun.

However, you should pay careful attention to what you allow your pup to eat at BBQ time.

While a few scraps from the grill as a very special treat are probably OK - in serious moderation - some of your favorite summer indulgences could do them a lot more harm than good.

Chicken bones, corn husks, and other BBQ leftovers can pose a choking hazard and may even block a dog's intestines, necessitating surgical removal. Chocolate, avocado, and alcohol, among other summer foods and beverages, can be poisonous to dogs.

Just in case, keep the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center's phone number handy and keep a close eye on what your pup's cute puppy dog eyes manage to elicit from the plates of your less canine safety aware guests.

Take Note

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435

Speaking of your grill itself, inhaling lighter fluid vapors could induce aspiration pneumonia in dogs, but other seemingly less harmful summer related products can get your pet sick too— especially if your dog likes to lick things a lot (which most do.)

Ingesting sunscreen can trigger vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy; DEET-containing bug spray can lead to neurological problems; and citronella oil from those big bug candles can inhibit a dog's central nervous system, resulting in a slowed heart rate, coma, or death.

We hope these tips for keeping dogs calm during 4th of July fireworks come in handy (these can also be applied during the New Year fireworks and any other fireworks celebrations).


Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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