Yep, it’s that dreaded time of the year again when we need to do our best to calm dogs during fireworks!
Did you know that an usual large number of dogs (& cats) go missing every year on the night of July 4th when the firework craziness begins?
That’s according to Pet Amber Alert, yet this statistic is entirely preventable! How? By incorporating certain safety precautions and taking proactive approaches to keeping your pup exercised and calm.
Here’s how I’ve kept my pups Missy, Buzz and Wally calm & relaxed over the years! …and by the way, these tips also work for thunderstorms and/or gun sounds.
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in 2021. It contains affiliate links I may earn compensation through at no additional cost to you.
Exercise Your Pups
My favorite proactive approach towards alleviating my pups’ initial fear of the loud firework sounds was and is thorough physical exercise!
If you exercise your pup throughout the day on July 4th, especially in the afternoon prior to the fireworks, you’ll have a tired pup on your hands!
Remember, a tired dog is a calm dog who is less likely to be upset at noises.
Here’s what you can do to tire your pup out!
Walks or Hikes
Weather permitting, you can take them for a nice, LONG walk or hike. To increase the intensity of these walks, you can add a doggie backpack to the equation. They come in a large variety of styles and sizes, and are even available for small pups these days!
My personal favorite ones are the dog backpacks from Ruffwear and One Tigris.
To learn how to get your pup used to backpacking, check out the link in the Related Reading section at the end of this blog post.
These two backpacks are super high quality. When I first began backpacking with my pups (back in 2012), I began with dog backpacks from Outward Hound. I wasn’t overly impressed with their quality because they wore quickly, so I’ve been sticking with packs from Ruffwear and One Tigris ever since.
If it’s just too darn hot to go for extended walks or you don’t have access to the cooler woods, you’ll have to stick to quick potty breaks as far as outdoors time goes.
Watch out for the hot asphalt when you take your pups out during the hotter time of the day. That can do some real damage to your pup’s paw pads, so if you can’t avoid it, try getting your pup used to wearing doggie booties. They will keep his sensitive paw pads safe for those outings. My pup Buzz is trying on Ruffwear’s Grip Trex in the picture below.
Swimming sounds like the way to go when temperatures are on the rise. Granted, not everyone has the luxury of a readily available doggie pool in their backyards (we certainly don’t!). The picture below was taken at the end of pool season in our Apartment Complex in NoVa.
There are, however, pawsome alternatives. Search for pet day spas in your area, which usually offer swimming sessions in their doggie pools.
You’ll likely have to pre-book them, so act fast! Or maybe you live close to a doggie beach ~ indulging in a dip in the ocean and running along the beach will make for a tired pup!
Sidenote: I’m not a huge fan of letting my guys swim in lakes here in our NC neck of the woods. There’s way too many snakes and other iffy critters in there for it to be safe.
Fetch & Hide and Seek
Another fun way to exercise your pups is to play an extended game of fetch in your backyard! Or how about some hide-and-seek inside? That will also get rid of some pent up energy, both physical AND mental because your pups have to figure out where you are.
How to play hide & seek with your pups: Put them in a down-stay and hide somewhere in your home, then call them. I always say “puppies, where’s Mommy?” When they find you, praise and/or offer a tasty treat for a job well done! Repeat several times.
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks: Dog-Proofing Your Home
Besides exercising your pups, it’s also a great idea to puppy-proof your home for the 4th of July festivities.
Lock windows, front and back doors, as well as the garage, and double-check on that gate lock in your backyard.
Keep your pups inside the house to avoid them taking off! It’s still a good idea to have your pooches wear their name tag on a collar or harness they can’t get out of– just in case they’d get lost after all.
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks: Desensitize Your Dog
Invest your time & energy into desensitizing your dog to loud noises ahead of the festivities. Find a recording of fireworks (and/or gun sounds online), and very slowly begin to incorporate them into your dog’s daily routine. I found a good one on YouTube:
Check your own energy before starting the session and make sure you’re introducing the new sounds in a calm, relaxed way.
Offer high-value treats like tiny bits of cut up hot dog or cheese to associate positive things (=the treats) with the sounds.
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks: Avoid Coddling & “The Baby Voice”
Don’t coddle your pups by picking them up (if they’re small enough!) or talking to them in an excited, high-pitched baby voice.
Dogs pick up on our energy, so a dog who is coddled will interpret that as reinforcement of his anxious state of mind.
The best thing you can do to help your dog win his anxiety battle is to be calm and balanced.
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks: Play Soothing, Relaxing Classical Music
Fast and hectic sounding music like Heavy Metal, Jazz, and Rock n’ Roll increases the heart and brain wave rates, ergo the level of excitement. Instead, slow, soothing music like classical has the opposite effect and leaves dogs calm.
The vast majority of the pups (70% of shelter dogs & 80% of home dogs) displayed the most calm behavior patterns when they were exposed to a single instrument.
That was mainly a piano that played slow tempos and easy arrangements, which suggests that a dog’s anxiety may be caused by an acoustic overstimulation.
Two experts in the field of sound and canine neurology have actually worked together in creating several CDs geared towards allowing dogs to relax in stressful situations caused by different catalysts.
Dr. Susan Wagner is a board-certified veterinary neurologist and has co-authored the book and CD series “Trough a Dog’s Ear” with Joshua Leeds, a sound researcher. You can read more about them here!
So get ready to add some soothing classical music to your playlist, or play a few tunes yourself if you play the piano!
Make The Laundry Room or Closet A Cozy Retreat
Back in 2017, I took a refresher class in Pet First Aid.
The veterinarian who taught the class mentioned that dogs who have issues with loud noises do well in a laundry room with no windows with the washer and/or dryer going. An alternative is to close blinds and/or curtains if there are windows.
The reason behind this is that the monotone sounds of the washer and/or dryer provide a soothing atmosphere.
If your pup is crate-trained, you can take it up a notch and place their crate into your laundry room (or closet, if it fits!). If it’s a wire crate, try putting a blanket or throw over it. That will offer an additional sense of safety.
My pup Wally loves to hang out in his crate when he’s looking for some peace and quiet, and I leave his crate covered with a darkening blanket on 3 sides.
Lavender Smell & Essential Oils For Relaxation
Another idea is to light a lavender candle and/or use a few drops of essential lavender oil on your dog’s body to help him (& you!) relax. Just remember not to leave the lit candle unattended.
I recently found out about the company One Fur All who makes different varieties of pet friendly soy candles. They’re non-toxic to pets, unlike the regular paraffin candles.
The Lavender Green Tea candle retails for around $21 on Amazon and lasts twice as long as regular candles (about 70 hour burn time). It smells delicious and I will definitely be lighting it on July 4th!
TIP: check out all the other different scents…Christmas will be coming sooner or later…
You can also use an essential oil diffuser! It’s been a wonderful tool in helping create a calm, relaxing atmosphere for my rescue pup Wally. He’s been with me since early 2019. My favorite essential oil set from Amazon retails for $19.88 and includes 6 different oils:
- Breathe Easy
- Calming Sleep
I also went ahead and bought a diffuser, also on Amazon. It’s the Arvidsson 100 ml Essential Oil Diffuser for $27.99. It has a metal case and has the option of 7 different light colors. I usually leave them off and only diffuse the oil, but that’s just my personal preference.
Distract With Scrumptious, Long-Lasting Chews!
If your pup is still not snoozing after an active day, offer him a distracting chew. For example, a bully stick, a stuffed KONG toy or a Yak Cheese Dog Chew. Chewing is a natural doggie behavior and keeps their mind occupied! It also exercises their jaws and massages their gums.
Bonus Tip: Freeze the KONG to make it last extra long!
How to Calm Dogs During Fireworks: Bottom Line
Incorporating safety precautions and energy-draining exercise will make the Independence Day festivities a lot more enjoyable for your entire pack! Now relax, sit back and enjoy the firework display!
How are you keeping your pup safe and relaxed when loud noises are on the horizon, pun intended? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!Join the K9sOverCoffee Community to stay in the loop about recipes, reviews, fitness tips & giveaways! Get your free raw dog food recipe as soon as you sign up!