How can you keep a dog calm during fireworks? The 4th of July is a lot of people’s favorite holiday…but not for dogs. According to a study conducted by Zazie Todd, PhD, when asked about their dog’s response to fireworks, thunder, etc., 49% of owners reported a fearful response from their dog. The most common responses to noises were trembling/shaking (43%), barking (38%) and seeking out people (35%)¹. Furthermore, animal shelters report that 4th and 5th of July are their busiest days due to the amount of dogs that get spooked from the fireworks and run off (Baranauckas, 2018).
Let’s Do the Numbers
30% of all lost pet incidents each year occur on the evening of the Fourth of July.
PetAmberAlert.com reports that nationally, animal shelters and animal control officers across the country see a 30-60% increase in lost pets each year between July 4th and 6th.
The ASPCA completed a large survey and found:
- 15% of pet parents had a lost dog or lost cat in the past five years
- 85% of those lost pets were recovered: 74% of cat parents found their lost cat and 93% of dog parents found their lost dog
- 49% of the lost dogs were found by searching the neighborhood
- 15% of the lost dogs were recovered because they were wearing an ID tag or had a microchip
- 59% of the lost cats returned home on their own
- 30% of the lost cats were found by searching the neighborhood
- 6% of dog parents and 2% of cat parents found their lost pets at a shelter
What Can You Do to Prepare?
Hopefully, we are able to find our lost dog or cat quickly ourselves by searching our neighborhood. Second best, we hope that a good, animal-loving person has found them. But if this person finds them and can’t identify them, then we may still never end up reunited with our lost pet.
Here are a few tips to make sure our lost pet is returned to us quickly:
- The easiest and fastest way to make sure our pets are identifiable is by wearing an ID tag.
- Frayed and worn collars are more easily torn if they get caught on a fence or branch. We need to regularly check to makes sure our pets’ collars are intact. Check out Hollywood Feed’s Mississippi Made collars and leads here.
- We should check to make sure that our pets’ ID tags are attached to their collars well and the clip or metal ring holding the tag to the collar is not worn or bent.
- Let’s also check to make sure our pets’ ID tags are legible and not scratched. If it’s not legible, it’s worthless!
- Keep dogs and cats inside after dusk and supervise potty breaks in fenced yards or take dogs out on a leash for a few days before and after the Fourth of July.
Microchips are a Great Back-Up
Besides ID tags, there are other options available to make sure our pets are able to be identified. I like ID tags because they are easily and quickly visible to a do-gooder. This makes it simple for someone to approach our dog or cat (if they’re being friendly), call our phone number, and reunite us.
I believe that pets should also be microchipped. Microchips cannot fall off a collar or become worn, so they are a great back-up if our pet becomes lost. If we microchip, though, we should not forget to also have an ID tag as well as keep our microchip information up to date!
Many people will make an effort to return a lost pet to his home with an easy, breezy phone call from a visible ID tag. It is a rarer type of person who will load a strange dog or cat into their car with no identifiers, take him to a vet’s office to see if there is a microchip, and then deal with the consequences of finding no microchip, or finding a microchip with outdated information. This means a stranger will have to make the choice to leave our pet with a shelter, or keep him at their home while they put up posters and make posts on websites. That’s if anyone stops to help in the first place!
Calming Treats for Dogs to Keep Them Calm During Fireworks
Calming treats are a natural way to make your dog feel relaxed during fireworks. Heavenly Hounds Relaxation Squares and Progility Calming Aids are two natural treats that help dogs feel less anxious. Heavenly Hounds is a fast acting treat and can be expected to work within minutes of giving it to your dog. And your dog will love the peanut butter flavor.
Progility Calming Aid should be given 30 minutes before fireworks start. It contains L-Theanine which is a natural plant-based amino acid found in green tea leaves that can help promote relaxation and lower stress. Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1, helps strengthen the immune system and aid the body to withstand stressful conditions. L-Tryptophan is a naturally occurring essential amino acid that helps enhance calming effects to reduce anxiety and stabilize mood. Melatonin may help reduce stress for dogs suffering from noise phobias or separation anxiety, especially in unfamiliar surroundings or situations. And it is cold pressed, which is a modern production process that uses cold temperatures to retain the maximum efficacy of all the ingredients otherwise compromised by heat.
Let Your Dog Burrow and Hide
The best option is to let your dog choose how they want to cope with loud sounds. While the calming treats are a great option, your dog may prefer to find a dark place to burrow and hide. Give them that option by prepping an area ahead of time. A donut bed is a great bed because the walls of the bed offer burrowing and nuzzle options for your pet. Pet blankets are another great addition for this so your pet can hide if that’s what they prefer to cope with the sound.
Desensitization and Counterconditioning
Another way to keep a dog calm during fireworks is desensitization and counterconditioning. According to Zazie Todd, PhD, “The standard recommended treatment for fireworks fears is desensitization and counterconditioning (DSCC) using recordings of fireworks noises”². To practice this technique with your pup, play the audio of fireworks at a sound they are comfortable with. Then gradually, increase the volume. While this is happening, offer treats to the dog after the loud bang of a firework– this is the counterconditioning part. Training treats are a good option since they are smaller, so you can use them as long as you are doing this technique. Depending on your dog, this will vary in how long this takes.
Last night I heard someone shooting off fireworks in my neighborhood! I usually expect to hear them on the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, but this was a bit early. After hearing the fireworks and then dogs barking on my street, I realized that now would be a good time to remind everyone to take a few small steps to keep your dog safe around fireworks this year.
Supervise dogs when they’re outside! Dogs who are otherwise fine in your backyard by themselves may become scared and try to dig under the fence to get away from the loud noise. Dogs can jump or climb 8-foot fences when they are very scared. DO NOT leave your dog in the backyard while you are out for the evening if fireworks are likely to go off.
If your dogs are scared of fireworks even when they are inside with you, try turning on the TV or radio to drown out some of the noise outside. You can also give your dog a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or plain yogurt and then frozen. Treats like these will keep your pup occupied for a long time and help distract him from the scary noise.
Another way to calm a dog during fireworks is to make sure that your dog has a comfortable place where he feels safe to ride out the evening. Does your dog love his crate? Maybe, he prefer a Mississippi Made dog bed in the corner. Or, bring out his favorite toy that he likes to cuddle with. Set up a space to make him feel as comfortable as possible.
There is a product called Thundershirt that may be helpful for some dogs when they are anxious or scared. The shirt wraps around your dog snuggly and comfortably, designed to make your dog feel safe. It is easy to use and there is no training involved! You can find a ThunderShirt in all different sizes at your local Hollywood Feed location.
Check your yard for any stray fireworks that may have fallen into it before letting your dogs outside unsupervised. Some dogs may try to eat used fireworks.
Leave Dogs at Home
If you are not completely sure that your dog is comfortable and calm around fireworks, then PLEASE do not take him to a fireworks display with you! He may run away or become so fearful that he bites or injures you or someone else.
What other tips do you have for keeping your dog safe through New Year’s Eve fireworks?
Have you ever had a lost dog or cat? Was he return home to you? Let us know in the comment section below.
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¹ Todd, Zazie, PhD. “Fear of Loud Noises: A Common Problem in Domestic Dogs?” companionanimalpsychology.com. 27 Feb. 2013. https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2013/02/fear-of-loud-noises-common-problem-in.html.
Baranauckas, C. 2018. Dogs And Fireworks: The Fear Isn’t All in Their Heads. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dogs-fireworks-fear-isnt-all-in-heads_n_5b3a8912e4b07b827cb9ae6f#:~:text=People%20who%20have%20seen%20their,journal%20Applied%20Animal%20Behaviour%20Science.
² Todd, Zazie, PhD. “Survey Shows Which Treatments are Effective for Fireworks Fears in Dogs.” avsab.org. 2 July 2020. https://avsab.org/survey-shows-which-treatments-are-effective-for-fireworks-fears-in-dogs/. Dog Behavior, Fear/Aggression, Small Animal Behavior.