Keeping Your Dog Safe and Calm on the Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is a fun-filled day of celebration for Americans across the nation. Unfortunately, it is not such an exciting time for their dogs.
From the terrifying shrieks and booms of fireworks, to the enticing aroma of neighboring cookouts, Independence Day can be a treacherous time for dogs. In fact, statistics from animal control agencies across the nation indicate that there is a 30% increase in lost dogs around the Fourth of July, with July 5th being one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters. Even worse, only about 15% of those lost dogs are returned to their owners.
Why Dogs Go Missing on the Fourth
As humans, we understand the reasons behind the loud booms and unusual flares in the sky from fireworks. Our dogs do not. To dogs, fireworks are just downright terrifying. When scared, a dog’s natural instinct is to seek refuge in a small, safe space, and dogs will often go to any means necessary to find it – even if it means escaping their yard to look for safety.
Additionally, dogs are also often enticed by the delicious aromas that come from backyard cookouts, and particularly the scraps left lying around when the party is finished. Dogs enjoy the taste of good barbecue as much as their humans and are often willing to escape their yard if it means they can sink their teeth into some of those mouthwatering scraps.
Backyard cookouts also mean lots of guests coming and going. In the midst of the celebration, it’s easy for a gate or door to be left ajar, giving dogs the opportunity to sneak off to explore while their owners are distracted.
4th of July Dog Tips – Planning Ahead
There are things you can do to encourage safe, calm dogs on the Fourth of July. This starts by preparing ahead of time.
Make sure your dog is easily identifiable.
It’s a horrible feeling when your dog escapes, and it can happen at any time, not just July 4th. Hopefully a good Samaritan or animal shelter will stop when they your dog running along that busy road and help him find his way home. This is so much easier if your dog wears a collar that at the minimum has your dog’s name and your contact information.
Having your dog microchipped is also a smart idea. Sometimes dogs manage to get out of their collars, and unfortunately there are also people who steal dogs from individuals. Having your dog microchipped is an easy way for vets or animal shelters to identify your dog and get her back home safely. Just make sure that you actually register your microchip, then keep your contact information up to date in case you move or change phone numbers.
If micro-chipping at your vet’s office is out of your budget, keep an eye out for discounted or even free micro-chipping events. These are often offered as fundraisers for animal shelters and rescue groups.
Desensitize your dog to the sounds of fireworks.
By using the TrainAway App, you can get your dog accustomed to the booms, pops, and whistling that fireworks displays make. Play the app over the speaker for several days prior to the Fourth, and keep the app running on the holiday as well. It can take a few weeks to fully desensitize your dog to a loud noise however, even a few days can greatly reduce their stress. TrainAway’s system is automated allowing you to train all day without stressing your dog out.
Prepare a safe place for your dog indoors.
Even if your dog is typically an outdoor dog, you will want to bring him inside during fireworks. In the wild, dogs would look for a small, safe place to use as a den that would keep them safe. You can create a “den” of sorts in your home as well.
If your dog is familiar with using a crate, then that’s the ideal place for him to go during the festivities. You can cover the crate with a blanket to help drown out some of the noise, but leave a light on in the room. Also, if you use a blanket, make sure it doesn’t make it too hot inside the crate. You might want to test out using a blanket prior to the Fourth so you know how your dog will respond.
If you do not have a crate, find a small room – like a bathroom – where you dog can go and hide. Put a dog bed or blanket inside and be sure to provide water.
4th of July Dog Tips – Celebrating the Fourth
Wear Your Dog Out.
Just as exercise is good for people with anxiety, it’s also good for dogs who are anxious. Wearing off excess energy can help your dog relax more – and perhaps even sleep – during the fireworks. So take your dog for an extra-long walk, visit the dog park, or play a long game of fetch before fireworks begin. Just make sure you provide plenty of water since it will probably be hot outside.
Pay attention to scraps.
If you have a picnic or cookout, make sure to clean up scraps and place them in a dog-proof container right away. For example, you don’t want your dog rummaging through leftover chocolate brownies or cans of beer, both of which are poisonous to dogs, or dangerous bones from that scrumptious fried chicken.
Food scraps aren’t the only hazards that dogs get into, however. Bug spray, lighter fluid, glow sticks, and even fireworks can all be ingested by dogs, and all pose dangers. Keep the number to poison control handy just in case.
If you have a Dog that often eats stuff he’s not supposed to, it’s not a bad idea to keep hydrogen peroxide on hand. Hydrogen Peroxide has long been used to make dogs throw up in cases when they’ve ingested a potentially deadly substance.
Watch your dog around children.
Whether you take your dog with you on a picnic or you have guests over for a cookout, you need to keep an eye on how your dog interacts with your guests – especially young children. If your dog is not used to be around children, they may frighten your dog, and your dog may react negatively. Or you dog may excitedly jump on a young child and accidentally cause an injury. The TrainAway app has sounds for Children running and playing as well. While this is usually more of a visual stimuli for dogs, getting them used to high pitched yells, laughs and the sound of running can’t hurt.
For the safety of your guests, as well as the safety of your dog, it’s best to keep your dog in a confined area. Not only can your dog accidentally cause an injury, the coming and going of guests makes it easy for your dog to slip out of your yard or house.
Bring Your Dog Inside.
Even if your dog typically stays outside, bring her in before the fireworks begin. Again, put her in a pre-established confined setting. Leave the lights on, then turn on the TV or calming music as white noise. Play the Train Away app fireworks sounds in the background so that the real fireworks blend in with the recorded fireworks.
Give your dog a long, distracting treat.
Keeping your dog busy with a Kong toy or a safe bone that takes awhile to chew will help keep your dog’s attention on something other than the scary lights and sounds coming from outside.
This recipe for Kongs is a cheap and effective way to keep your dog busy and happy for long periods of time:
Soak your dogs regular kibble in water or non-salted broth. You want roughly a 1:1 ratio but it differs for each type of kibble. The idea is that the kibble will soak up all the liquid and become soft. Then mash in a bit of peanut butter and some smaller treats. Finally pack the mixture into the kong and place in the freezer. After a few hours you’ll have a frozen treat that will entertain your dog for a long time without making a mess. Refrigerate what you don’t use and buy two kongs so you always have one ready to go.
4th of July Dog Tips – If You Must Take Your Dog to Festivities
Dog experts and rescue groups generally recommend leaving your dog inside on the Fourth of July, and not taking him to a firework’s show. While it’s not ideal, sometimes there’s no other option than to take your dog with you. If this is the case, here are some tips to make the show go as smoothly as possible.
- Keep your dog on a short leash. That way if he gets scared, you’ve got a better grasp and he can’t run away. Also, never let your dog run around free during the show.
- Use a harness. Harnesses are harder to slip out of than a collar, although it can still happen. Make sure you fit the harness so that it’s good and snug well before the fireworks begin.
- Bring plenty of treats. You’ll want to distract your dog as much as possible during the show, and also reward for good behavior. As mentioned above, a long, distracting treat is a good idea to help keep your dog’s focus on something other than the loud, scary fireworks.
4th of July Dog Tips – If You Must Take Your Dog to the Festivities (Continued)
- Keep your distance. Not only are fireworks scary for dogs, they’re dangerous. Dogs have gotten burned by fireworks set off in people’s yards. They’ve also ingested fireworks, which contain gunpowder and other poisonous substances. Beyond the safety issues, fireworks simply aren’t as loud the farther away your are.
- Talk to your vet about medication. Your vet may be able to prescribe something to help calm your dog’s anxiety during the show.
- Consider CBD oils. Studies on humans have found that CBD oils helps relieve anxiety by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which decreases the chemicals in the body that lead to anxiety. Canines have similar systems, and anecdotal evidence has pointed to CBD oils helping dog anxiety as well. When using CBD, most experts recommend administering the oil about 30 minutes prior to the fearful event. The dosing varies, but the general recommendation is 1 to 5 mg per 10 pounds.
Even with all of these 4th of July Dog Tips, there is no magic formula for creating calm dogs on the Fourth of July. However, by implementing these strategies, you can at least ensure that your dog stays safe – which is the most important thing.