Loud noises and sounds can really freak dogs out, and a fireworks show is probably the worst noise monster a fearful dog can face. With the 4th of July coming up, here are some ways to help your dog stay a little more comfortable.
It’s a good idea to check for the dates of community fireworks displays during celebratory seasons, and make sure your dog’s collar ID and microchip registration are up to date.
Here are a few of the upcoming fireworks shows in the area:
- Rancho Cordova Fourth of July Celebration: Sunday, July 3 and Monday, July 4 (fireworks starting at 9:45pm)
- Salute to the Red, White and Blue in Elk Grove: Monday, July 4 (fireworks starting at 9:40pm)
- Folsom Pro Rodeo: July 1-3 (fireworks starting at 10pm)
- Fourth on the Field at Sutter Health Park: Monday, July 4 (fireworks starting at 9:30pm)
- Winters Fireworks Show: Sunday, July 3 (fireworks starting at 9:15pm)
- Roseville's Fourth of July Fireworks: Monday, July 4 (fireworks starting at 9:15pm)
- Lincoln 4th of July Celebration: Monday, July 4
- Celebrate America 2022 in Rocklin: Friday, July 1- Saturday, July 2 (fireworks starting at 8pm)
When you know a firework display is scheduled nearby, or you see your neighbors setting up for a display, ask a friend if you can bring your dog over for an evening chat or movie – unless your dog finds trips even more stressful. El Dorado County has a "no fireworks" law in place so Placerville is a great place to make a friend or find a dog-friendly rental for the night.
Set up a quiet safe space in your home
Find a spot where your dog is comfortable and the sound of fireworks is muffled, like a finished basement or an internal room like a walk-in closet. Spend time with your dog there, with toys and treats, well before fireworks season begins. We're incredibly lucky that none of our three dogs (including our noise-phobic, anxious dog Omega) are bothered by fireworks. However, we are still proactive and make sure they're in a comfortable spot in the house.
Desensitize your dog
You can start by playing a recording of fireworks at a very low level for short periods, multiple times a day, and rewarding calm behavior with treats. If your dog is extremely fearful of noises, before taking this step, think about consulting an experienced dog behaviorist for expert guidance.
Go for a long walk well before dark
A happily tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Exercise your pup with fun play or a long walk so they are ready to nap when night falls. Make sure their collar or harness is slip-proof because some people celebrate with firecrackers and other noisemakers before darkness falls. If your neighborhood is in full party mode early in the day, think about giving your dog some extra mental stimulation with puzzle toys and games inside your home.
Close windows and curtains
This will help to muffle the sound and block out flashes of light. We like to use blackout curtains in our bedroom to keep out light, and let the dogs hang out with us in there.
Turn on the TV, music, or white noise
Make sure whatever you use is already familiar to your dog – even fans can be anxiety-causing if they are fired up without warning. Since we try to create a calming, safe space for our pups, we usually turn on our TV with a familiar movie or show and let the dogs snuggle up on the bed with us.
Try an anxiety wrap
Soft, stretchy jackets and vests built specifically for a dog’s shape are reported to be effective at reducing anxiety. I suggest you slowly introduce your dog to their coat well before fireworks season descends. We got Omega a Thundershirt years ago, and now he gets excited every time we get it out for him.
Don’t fuss over your dog
I know it’s hard not to be upset when you see your dog distressed, especially when you know they are safe. However, if you frantically console them, or make angry comments about inconsiderate neighbors, your distress or anger can strengthen your dog’s belief that something is wrong. You can certainly soothe your dog, but do so in a calm, reassuring, and positive manner. When Omega is upset, I like to rub the backs of his ears and his chest with slow, rhythmic motions.
Gently distract your dog
Turn those fireworks into background chatter by engaging in normal fun activities like playing with a toy, running through training exercises, or inviting your dog on the couch for a movie night. If your dog has already chosen a safe space, don't pull them out and force them to play if they would rather hide.
Consult a professional
Is your dog’s quality of life suffering, or are they so panicked they could injure themselves, or you, while trying to escape? Dog trainers, dog behaviorists, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists can offer a range of options from counter-conditioning to medication. If you choose to seek professional help, make sure you plan to do so well before the 4th to ensure your pup gets the help they need before an issue arises!
ALL AROUND THE CIRCLE
Don't forget to continue following the blog circle to read other pet photographers' tips for the 4th of July/Canada Day. Up next Southeast Wisconsin dog photographer Jan Bezzo shares tips on how to keep your dog safe during the 4th of July.