Dogs and fireworks don’t mix. Fireworks create extreme anxiety in dogs and can cause them to act erratically.
The good news is, there are some things you can do (and other things you shouldn’t do) to help your dog out today.
Dogs and Fireworks: Why are they terrified?
Dogs have a different reaction to fireworks than they have to thunder.
Remember, to your dog, the experience of fireworks is different than other natural loud noises, like thunder. Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes and burning smells. Dogs experience the world through their senses — nose, eyes, ears. The typical Fourth of July celebration can be overwhelming to them.
And dogs can act ways you don’t expect. My Moxie is not scared of thunder at all. She just chills out when it’s going on.
She’s been pretty good with fireworks in the past, but a few days ago a neighbor set off some firecrackers while I was walking her. Normally, her fear response is to stand behind my legs.
In this case, she bolted and struggled to pull away from me. She was running towards our house, but it still scared me because she was really trying to get out of her harness. Luckily, I wasn’t walking her in just her collar and her harness has multiple contact points.
Here are some things you can do to help your dog deal with fireworks.
Let your dog have a den
Even if your dog doesn’t normally den, she might need a place to go and “feel safe” during fireworks. It could be as simple as a side table with a blanket over it (and a dog bed underneath it).
My dog is a denning dog but chooses brand new locations when she’s anxious. After some neighborhood fireworks a few days ago, I found her here:
She wasn’t shaking or panicking, but I could tell she needed some alone time. So I let her be.
Don’t comfort your dog
Your dog looks to you to learn how to react to situations. If you start comforting your pup the second the fireworks start, your dog will learn that he should be scared of fireworks.
If you act like everything is totally normal, he’ll learn that it’s nothing to be scared of.
As someone who considers herself a dog mom, my first instinct is to scoop Moxie up and comfort her. Instead, when she runs over to me, I tell her calmly, but firmly, “you’re fine,” over and over.
Take Your Pup on a Long Walk Before Sunset
Dogs love routine but today is the day to deviate from it. Fireworks are an unusual experience for dogs, so you cannot predict how your dog will act.
It’s best to take your dog for a long walk before the fireworks begin. (You may need to take them out for a pit stop later in the night than normal if you do this, so make sure you take them out after the fireworks die down).
More dogs go missing on the Fourth of July than any other day. I know multiple dog owners who tragically lost their dogs on July 4th.
If you are able to, use a harness that secures your pup very well. My dog is very long and skinny which makes harnesses difficult to fit on her. She has wiggled out of traditional harnesses before. (I “stress test” them at home).
While it isn’t 100% squirm-resistant, she has to squirm out of a few different places before she can break loose. This gives me plenty of time to grab her.
If you don’t have this type of leash, consider clipping your harness to the dog’s collar (with a separate clip from the leash). If your pup manages to squirm out, this will give you back up.
Don’t Include Your Pup in Your Plans
If you are like me, you love including your dog in as many plans as possible.
In fact, Moxie is becoming a bit of a winery dog.
But today is not the day to take your puppy along on your picnic. Again, you don’t know how your pup can react. Again, dogs and fireworks don’t mix.
And if fireworks begin, it can be a very terrifying experience for your dog.
When you leave your puppy home, consider crating her for the extra comfort. (Of course, if you’ve never crated your dog before, today’s not the day to do it).
In the abstract, having the whole family together for a picnic and fireworks sounds idyllic, but leave your pup home.
Go With Your Dog’s Comfort Level
If your dog is especially anxious, don’t force him to do anything. Even if it’s the usual time you take the dog out.
You may need to clean up an accident later, but it’s better to keep your dog safe. In addition to the risk of running away, anxiety can cause health problems for dogs that last multiple days.
All in all, today will be a stressful day for your dog if you live close to fireworks (whether professional or amateur). Dogs and fireworks don’t mix. Hopefully, these tips will help you minimize the anxiety for your pup!
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