I don’t know why fireworks became an integral part of 4th of July celebrations, I only know that I have a dog that is terrified of them and as we approach the holiday, millions of Pet Parents become as anxious as their fur children. Most dogs are extremely frightened of fireworks and that fear can lead to many dire consequences. My dog Sadie bolted through the gate of our East End home when she was a puppy and fireworks were set off at the Capitol. I was lucky; she ran around the block and into the open door of our house where I found her, but others aren’t.
The Humane Society reports that there’s a significant increase in dogs brought into shelters as strays around the 4th of July. Despite the best intentions, dogs bolt from their owners when they are frightened and just like humans, have super strength during heightened stress and can pull a leash from a tight grip or go through a door or gate. Dogs go into a flight or fight mode when frightened and as there’s no tangible opponent, most often the flight mode wins. This flight often propels the dog to try and hide under something and has caused dogs to run directly under a car. When dogs are in this flight or fight mode, their adrenaline is surging and even coaxing them with a treat most often won’t work. Sadie is so scared of thunderstorms that she won’t eat anything during one.
Here are some precautions for keeping your dog safe during firework displays.
1. DON’T take your dog to an event that includes fireworks. You may want to sit under the stars and see the display, but your don’t won’t. Taking your dog is dangerous and will be extremely agitating for most dogs. If you dog takes flight, you are not guaranteed you’ll find her. ABOVE ALL…Don’t leave a dog in the car if you take her with you. They can harm themselves and it’s never safe to leave a dog in a car let alone during summer temperatures.
2. If you must go to the fireworks, hire a pet sitter you trust or a friend to sit with your dog and make sure they know what to do to keep her as calm as possible.
3. If fireworks can be heard from you home, make sure you have your dog in their “safe” place before they begin. For Sadie, this is either in our bedroom with a closet door open where she can feel safe or on the first floor of our house behind the jacuzzi. This is my preferred safe place for her so I can relax in the jacuzzi while she hides from the fireworks!
4. Thundershirts have been quite effective for many dogs, but if you don’t have one you can improvise. Keep a very small T-shirt on hand that you can put on your dog before the fireworks start. This acupressure is reassuring to dogs and often calms them.
5. If you live close enough to the fireworks to see the flashes of light, close your curtains or window blinds. The bright lights are fearful for dogs.
6. Keep all the doors and windows closed. It not only reduces noise, but is a barrier to your dog getting out. For an extra layer of safety just in case the “impossible” happens and she does get out, make sure she has a collar on with identification.
7. Never leave you dog outside alone in the yard during fireworks.
8. Keep the television or music on which will reduce the impact of the fireworks noise.
9. Report neighbors to the police or Fire Marshal if they are setting off illegal fireworks. In West Virginia, anything that leaves the ground is illegal unless set off by a licensed pyrotechnical individual.
10. Stay close to your dog until the fireworks are over. The comfort of your presence will help your dog cope with this traumatic experience.
11. Research techniques to reduce anxiety for your dog such as CD’s that provide for noise conditioning. This only works for a small percentage of dogs. Talk to your vet about medication if your dog suffers greatly during fireworks or thunderstorms.
Nothing protects your dog better than prevention. The 4th of July is a difficult holiday for Pet Parents with dogs, but with a little planning, patience, and understanding, it can be safe for everyone.