The Fourth of July means picnics and fireworks for most families, but for pets those loud booms and flashing lights aren’t so fun. Some dogs get anxious. They may pace, pant, become destructive, or panic and run away. Cats may cower and hide.
To make Independence Day a happy experience for your entire extended fur-family, here are six things you can do to keep your pets safe and calm during all the excitement.
1. Prepare in Advance
More pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year, so it’s critical to ensure people can identify your dog and contact you if he runs off in fear. Getting your dog microchipped in advance of such holidays is a great idea. Also, make sure your pet is wearing ID tags, so they can be easily identified and returned safely to you.
Talk to your vet about medications and natural remedies. In some cases, your pets’ fear and anxiety may require medication. Whether it’s prescription meds, pheromones, or supplements, there are numerous solutions on the market. Your family veterinarian can help you select the products that will work best for your pet.
Start working with your dog far enough in advance to desensitize him to fireworks and other loud noises. You can start this process by playing fireworks sounds on a low level while playing with your dog and giving him treats. Over time, slowly increase the sound of the fireworks during these play sessions. Eventually, your dog will associate the sound of fireworks with happy and fun moments.
3. Keep Pets Inside
Even if your pets spend most of their time outdoors, bring them inside to a safe place during firework displays. This will prevent them from running away when scared.
4. Create a Safe Space
If your dog is crate-trained, make his crate available, as that’s probably already a safe space for him. If not, put him in a bathroom or other small room with his favorite bedding. Bringing his bed, blankets and toys into the room can make him feel more comfortable. Open the closet door, too. A dark closet may become a favorite hiding place because it’s likely to be more insulated and the clothing can help absorb the loud noises.
5. Play Calming Sounds
Whether it’s a white noise machine or a stereo, calming sounds can help distract your dog or cat and drown out the loud crackles and sudden blasts.
6. Use a Calming Wrap
Calming wraps, vests and shirts apply light, constant pressure. Many dogs find this soothing and calming. You may find such products help in other anxiety-inducing situations, like thunderstorms. Be sure to let your pet try it on for short periods well ahead of time. The strange sensation of a pressure wrap can actually increase your pet’s anxiety if they try it on for the first time during a fireworks event.
7. Associate Play-time
We were successful this year at associating play time with our 2 year old dog. At first we would cuddle her and let her know everything was alright, but that felt dangerously close to reinforcing her anxiety. So during Cars and Stripes fireworks show I got out a new squeak toy…she loves squeak toys…and I played a game of tug-o-war and fetch with her. She did really well and now doesn’t panic when she hears loud explosions…but she does bring me toys trying to get me to play.
Not all pets are afraid of fireworks, but it’s important to remember your dog will take cues from you. If you make a big deal out of them when he’s not scared, he may eventually develop anxiety about fireworks. So make an effort to keep your pets calm, but remember to remain calm yourself.
Enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday!