While fireworks offer a dazzling display for people, they can be quite unsettling to dogs. Many dogs are afraid of fireworks, and some even exhibit an extreme, phobic response. The following tips can help:

If you haven’t lived with your dog during a previous July 4th holiday and therefore don’t know how he’ll react to the sound of fireworks, if your dog is generally sensitive to noises or if you have a young (or senior) dog, it’s recommended that you DO NOT leave him home alone. Dogs with fearful reactions to fireworks can easily panic and injure themselves in the process. Many panicked dogs find ways to escape from their yards and can be further injured or killed while running loose. Statistically, July 5th is one of the busiest days of the year for local shelters, as people go looking for lost pets. Remember that many neighborhoods celebrate early and continue firework festivities a few days after the 4th, so be prepared. Make sure your dog is wearing a properly fitted collar with up-to-date and legible contact information, just in case the unthinkable happens and he gets loose. If you’re unable to stay home with your dog on the 4th of July, keep him confined in an escape-proof area that he’ll be comfortable in, such as his crate or behind a baby gate in a laundry room or other small, dog-proofed area. Close up the windows, kick up the AC and turn up the TV or radio to help insulate your home from firework noise. Leave your dog with something WONDERFUL to do – like extract his dinner from a tightly stuffed KONG toy or other safe, long-lasting food delivery device.

If you’re staying home with your dog (or if he will be accompanying you to a family BBQ or outing) make sure he’s nice and hungry when the sun goes down. Arm yourself with a pouch full of mind-blowingly tasty treats and keep him busy working and playing for treats as the fireworks blast in the distance. Play all his favorite games and teach him that the big BOOMS predict great, fun things will happen! It’s okay to comfort him if he seems worried, but stay upbeat and confident as you play with him and give him his yummy rewards, rather than focusing on how pitiful he looks.

It’s also recommended that you not take your dog anyplace where fireworks will be a part of the festivities. Hearing them in the distance is dramatically different from being directly at a display, and over-exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of fireworks can create a phobic response that may last the rest of his life. For multiple dog families, if one dog already exhibits a fearful or phobic response to the sound of fireworks, consider separating the pups so that non-fearful dogs don’t “catch” the fear. In dogs, fear can be very contagious. This is especially important for young dogs who frequently look to older dogs in the household for information.

There are lots of calming supplements and pharmaceutical medications available to help dogs who are fearful of noises through this difficult time, like the FDA approved  “Sileo” and “Pexion”, which are used for treating canine noise aversion. If your dog is sensitive to loud noises, you might want to ask your veterinarian if they would recommend a medication that would be appropriate for for him. (Our current favorite situational calming product is Licks Zen Calming Aid.) Note that research has shown that some drugs which have been historically prescribed for anxious dogs, like Acepromazine and Chlorpromazine, function primarily as chemical restraints without affecting the animal’s emotions, and can actually make dogs more sensitive to sounds – click here to read more about this. If you discover that your dog does exhibit a fearful response to fireworks, call J9’s K9s at 818-832-9906 so we can help you make this potentially scary event easier for your dog.

Wishing you and your pack a happy and safe 4th of July from all of us at J9’s K9s!