The Fourth of July is upon us — time to relax and celebrate our independence, and for many that means RVing, swimming, barbecuing, fireworks and more. But don’t forget that to our dogs, the Fourth of July holiday is just another day — and one that can be filled with terror and anxiety due to the aforementioned fireworks. In fact, the folks at Purina say that more pets run away on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.
With so many of you RVing with your dogs — over 60 percent of the RVers we surveyed said one of the main reasons they wanted an RV was to get out into nature with their dogs — we thought there is no better time than now to bring you some tips for how to help your dog survive the Fourth of July.
After all, it can be bad.
Dogs can act out in a fireworks-induced panic, as our friends at ThatMutt.com recently wrote about dog owners sharing their tips for helping their dogs with extreme fireworks or thunder anxiety. They collected stories from their readers about how dogs can act when scared.
Stories included dogs who ate carpet, walls, knocked stuff over, urinated, defecated and more. Others would hide in closets and shake wildly with fear.
Here’s How and Why Dogs Are Scared of Fireworks
- Fireworks are loud – Most fireworks make some kind of loud sound. Dogs have a more acute sense of hearing than humans, so those loud booms, crackles and whistles are alarming.
- Fireworks are unpredictable – You expect fireworks on holidays like the Fourth of July, but for your dog, it’s just another day. Those firecrackers come without warning. The loud noises and flashing lights sound and look different each time. Plus, they come at different intervals, so dogs can’t get used to them.
- Fireworks pose a threat – The noise and unpredictability of fireworks leads many dogs to perceive them as a threat. This triggers their fight-or-flight response. Your dog may bark at the noises or try to run away and hide. He may show other signs of anxiety, too, like restlessness, panting, pacing and whining.
- Fireworks make dogs feel trapped – Fireworks are inescapable on holidays like Independence Day. So if the noises trigger your dog’s flight response, he will try to run from the threat. Unfortunately, there’s often nowhere to go, as you can still hear those loud booms indoors.
So now that you have a good idea about HOW and WHY dogs freak out, the big question, of course, is WHAT can you do to help your animal make it through the holiday?
Steps You Can Take If Your Dog Is Scared of Fireworks
First off, when RVing, Jennifer offered this tip provided by a fellow RVer on one way to keep your dog from bolting.
Purina offers several other tips to help your dog survive through the holiday:
- Keep Him Inside: Even if your dog spends most of his time outdoors, bring him inside during firework displays. This will prevent him from running away when he feels scared, which can put him in danger.
- Create a Safe Space: If your dog is crate-trained, make his crate available, as that’s probably already a safe space for him. If not, put him in a bathroom or other small room with music or white noise to help drown out the boom of fireworks. Bringing his bed, blankets and toys into the room can make him feel more comfortable.
- Try a Calming Wrap: Calming wraps, vests and shirts apply light, constant pressure. Many dogs find this soothing and calming. You may find such products help in other anxiety-inducing situations, like thunderstorms.
- Desensitize: Start working with your dog far enough in advance to desensitize him to fireworks and other loud noises. You can start this process by playing fireworks sounds on a low level while playing with your dog and giving him treats. Over time, slowly increase the sound of the fireworks during these play sessions. Eventually, your dog will associate the sound of fireworks with happy and fun moments.
Several readers of ThatMutt.com who have tried all of these tips with no luck suggested medications or benadryl for dogs during fireworks and when to use them.
Over The Counter Options:
Namely, Benadryl or Dramamine. Of course, you need to check with a veterinarian first for proper dosage.
In some cases, however, something stronger might be needed so be sure to check with your vet to explore all options.
And remember: not all dogs are afraid of fireworks, but it’s important to remember your dog will take cues from you. If you make a big deal out of them when he’s not scared, he may eventually develop anxiety about fireworks. So make an effort to keep your dog calm, but remember to remain calm yourself.
If you’re interested in learning more about RVing with a dog, check out the free ebook we recently published called “The Ultimate Guide to RVing with Your Dog.”