4th of July & Dogs: A Roundup of the Best Tips

The 4th of July is a touch time for many pets. While there is no clear evidence, many sites suggest that more pets go missing on July 4th than any other time of year.

Factual or not, it is a very stressful time for dogs as bright lights, loud noises, and often many guests shake up the dog’s environment.

How To Tell If Your Dog is Afraid

We want to discover as quickly as possible if your dog has a fear response. It can be touch, especially with rescue dogs or new puppies in which this may be your first 4th of July holiday with them.

It is also possible that they are fine with noises like the vacuum or hair dryer, but fireworks are a whole new experience, so it’s important to be prepared in case your dog does have a negative reaction the all the lights and loud noises.

Karen Pryor offers a good overview of how to assess whether your dog is afraid; “Dogs can indicate their fear in a variety of ways, with symptoms ranging from minor to extreme.”

Some common symptoms of fear can include: shaking, whining, hiding, pacing, urinating or defecating, or destroying property or items that a dog might otherwise leave alone.”

If we have established that there is a strong potential for fear in your pet, let’s take a look at the best tips and tricks from around the web to ensure you can keep your pet safe this weekend:

Make Sure they are Properly Tagged

First things first, it is imperative that you have your dog properly ID’ed and that it includes your current information. If the dog manages to escape the house/yard, you want to be able to get them back and simply and seamlessly as possible.

PetMD urges you to “Consider fitting your pet with microchip identification, ID tags with their name and your phone number, or both. It is also a good idea to have a recent picture of your pets in case you have to put up signs.”

Wear your Pup Out Beforehand 

Animal trainer Nicole Ellis, who works for DogVacay told The Huffington Post “Take your dog for a nice, long walk before the festivities start.

“A tired dog is a more relaxed dog,” said Ellis. The more exercise your four-legged pal gets before the party starts, the more sleepy he’ll be, meaning he’d rather lie down in a comfy spot in the living room than pace anxiously by the door. Walk your pup in an area he’s used to and seems to enjoy.”

Offer a Safe Haven

Victoria Stillwell offers her tips for helping a dog who is afraid of noises.

“The most important thing an owner can do for their fireworks-phobic dog is to provide them with a bolt hole – a place where the dog can escape to when the festivities begin.  Providing the dog access to this safe place is essential at all times, particularly during an owner’s absence.”

Doggy Distraction

Another option is to use TV or radio, or possibly even training if your dog is able to concentrate.

Sleeping? Who's sleeping? Look how pretty I sit!
Training time!

BlogPaws tells us that we should distract the dog to help them avoid their fears: ” Sometimes a distraction during the height of commotion is all
that is needed.”

Additionally, you can use this time to help train the dog to no longer be afraid of loud noises.

Comfort your Fearful Dog

A favorite blogger of mine, Eileen and Dogs, has a few great tips for this time of year.  My personal favorite is the simplest: cuddle your pup.

As Eileen says, “LOSE that idea that you should make your dog ‘tough it out.’ There is absolutely nothing to be gained from that. In fact, it’s fine to comfort your dog if that helps her. You can’t reinforce the emotion of fear, and helping a dog through a tough time is not “coddling.”

Helping the Dog Overcome their Fear 

At the smart animal training blog, they describe using counter-conditioing while keeping the dog below threshold to desensitize them to loud noises and gradually replace their fear response with a positive one. As they state:

  • When the dog is under threshold, she may notice the stimulus but won’t show any sign of fear.
  • When the dog is at threshold, she’s right at the point when she doesn’t display fear or emotional reactions but she pays noticeable attention to the stimulus.
  • When the dog is over threshold, she’s now showing signs of stress: from heavy panting, yawning or lick licking all the way to barking, lunging, attempting to run away or shutting down.

“The best approach is to keep the dog under threshold. When we expose the dog to the stimulus at a level where he still feels safe, and pair it with food or any other pleasant feeling, we can rewire those connections.

“Through repetitions, we can gradually establish new pathways between the stimulus and the emotional reactions. Fear is gradually replaced with feelings of calm and safety.

“Treats add to the sensation of pleasure and calm through the release of pleasure chemicals in the brain. Little by little we’ll be able to increase the level of intensity of the stimulus, until the dog can stay calm at all times.”

What is your best tip for helping your dog this 4th of July?

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