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The Ultimate Dog Training Guide for Managing Fireworks Anxiety

Dog scared of fireworks

Summertime in Cleveland with your dog: What could be better? You're going for long walks with your fur baby, playing with your pup in the water, and maybe even hitting up some dog parks. Leash training, housebreaking, and socialization of your new puppy is going well in the glorious weather. But then tragedy hits:

Fourth of July weekend.

Suddenly you're dealing with a howling mess of a mutt, who may be uncontrollably shaking, hiding, and for some dogs, even acting aggressively due to fireworks. Perhaps your stressed out pup managed to ingest something that upsets their stomach (or worse) during their panic attack.

Dog hiding under blankets

How do you help your dog through their July 4 anxieties?

Dog Owner's Ultimate July 4 Survival Guide

In a perfect world, you would have been prepping for July 4 weeks, or even months in advance, by Piloting your dog's behavior and general anxieties daily. Your dog's anxiety can't be resolved in a day any more than a human's phobia of heights can be conquered through one quick trip on an airplane.

But perhaps the summer got away from you. Maybe you're a new dog owner, and this is your first time having a dog on the 4th of July. Whatever the reason, you've got a big problem right here and right now.


Your Dog's July 4th Anxiety: More than Just Fireworks

There's no doubt that July 4th can be problematic for pet owners and fireworks are just a small part of the problem. From parties with unfamiliar people to sounds of festivities going through the night, your dog is subjected to numerous sensory overloads, culminating in the window-rattling booms of fireworks, sometimes going late into the night.

Even the calmest of dogs can struggle through these scenarios, but if you have an anxious dog even in the best of times, this can be catastrophic to an overwhelmed dog..

Let's go over some quick ways to keep your dog safe and calm(er) during the festivities.

Do Lower Your Dog's Access to Stimuli

If you know your dog tends to get anxious during fireworks, now is not the time to bring your beloved pooch to your friend's backyard bbq.

Dogs sleeping on owner's bed

Your dog will already be struggling with the stimuli you can't control, such as fireworks and sounds of evening festivities in your neighborhood. Don't add to their stress. It's perfectly fine to leave your dog at home in a safe environment that's familiar to them rather than bringing them to a party. Now is not the time to force your dog to socialize.

Don't Engage Your Dog with High Energy if They're Anxious

Red dog on bed

If your dog is already struggling with sensory overload; don't add to it. Your job is to bring your dog's energy level down, not raise it. No amount of fetch or loud music will cover the sound of fireworks, or the energy that July 4th has, so don't try to mask your dog's fears with bigger and louder stimuli.

Avoid things such as:

  • Loud, boisterous music;

  • Engaging them in rough play or high energy games;

  • Deafening volume on the tv;

  • Shouting or yelling;

  • "Rage soothing" dog owners frantically petting their dog while repeating over and over that "it'sokayyou'refineyou'reokaydon'tworryyou'refine" in a super high falsetto

If you want your dog to calm down (even just a bit) guide them down to calmness with quiet and serene behavior. You don't stomp them into calm by topping their energy. Moderate yourself. Keep your dog's surroundings as normal as possible.

Do Manage Your Dog's Energy Level Early

My Aussie, Hazel, and my Border Collie, Arwen, are both extremely high-energy dogs, so I take extra care to wear them out early on July 4th, before the parties get started. The only way to get those exercise endorphins in is to start early.

And no, taking your dog for a choke (sorry, I mean "walk") around the block won't cut it for this one.

Two dogs playing outside

From teaser poles (no, not that....this) and back packs to marathon fetch, there are a myriad of ways to have your dog pleasantly exhausted before the festivities begin. For a comprehensive guide to exercising your dog in an efficient way, give this article a read.

Don't Forget to Wear Your Dog Out Mentally as Well

So many of us are focused on our dog's need for physical activity that we neglect exercising your dog's brains as well.

While this should be a normal part of your dog's day, it's especially important if you know you are putting your dog into a stressful situation. Get that mental work in early in the day, before the booms begin. Discover how in this link.

Do Give Your Dog a Sensory Deprivation Area

Dog hiding under many blankets

In a perfect world, we could have our dogs safely sleeping in a sensory deprivation chamber while the fireworks are rattling our windows. Unfortunately, most of our dogs live in the real world with us, consisting of a lot of stimuli.

But there are plenty of ways to take the edge off.

Using calming music as a cue. I play a Spotify playlist called "Deep Focus" to condition my dogs to know it's time to relax. By only playing this music during bedtime and naptimes, as well as during stationary activities (Kongs for Arwen, or when Hazel gets brushed, which she loves), we are setting their brains up to be calm.

Also, having them in an interior room. Don't have your dog watching fireworks with you on the front porch. Hang out with them in a place with little to no windows, which will mitigate their exposure to those disturbing noises.

Don't Expect An Overnight Cure For Your Dog's Behavior

Anxious behavior in dogs is common during thunderstorms and fireworks, and it takes a lot of trust-building and Piloting of our dogs before they feel safe enough to relax in a potentially scary situation. And while medications from your vet can take the edge off your dog, they do not address the underlying issue: anxiety.

Black dog looking at owner

My Pitbull, Ellis, is especially bad during thunderstorms and fireworks, as he's naturally an anxious dog to begin with. By Piloting Ellis through his anxieties as a daily lifestyle, rather than a quick fix, we sorted through those behaviors. Now Ellis only pops his head in with a question now and then during fireworks and storms, rather than a shaking and quivering mass of dog during our unpredictable Cleveland weather.

I focused on giving him the activity and mental work he requires on a daily basis, not making it a precursor to Something Bad. If Kongs make an appearance only during thunderstorms, of course your dog will start to catch on and figure out that Kongs = Storm.

Your dog will not fall for your peanut butter covered lies.

Helping my dog work through those anxieties meant making his unmanageable world more manageable: I made it smaller.

Rather than letting him roam the house and pace during a storm, he would hang out with me in my office on a leash, making his cozier world so much manageable for him that roaming the entire house. He would sit by my legs and receive calm, gentle praise for being so brave.

Nowadays, if thunder makes an appearance, I don't have to actively manage Ellis and his anxiety. He understands that the safest place to be is by me. He doesn't need a leash, but instead plops himself down by my feet with a bone he find for himself in the toy bin.

My dog naturally wants to be in a calmer state, but that road to calmness can be difficult to find without a map. By providing him directions to a calmer place, and traveling that destination with him so frequently, he starts to understand the journey himself. He may still look to me for guidance when anxious, but it's something he can mostly manage himself now with some gentle cues rather than the turn-by-turn directions I initially had to give him.

Working Through Your Dog's Anxiety Daily

Your dog's anxiety doesn't just show itself on July 4th. That just happens to be the biggest manifestation of their anxiety. But most dogs who show stress during fireworks are prone to have impulse control issues or anxiety on a regular basis. Consider working with a dog trainer and/or dog behaviorist to come up with a plan to resolve your dog's anxieties and help them live calmer an happier lives.

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Are you a new dog owner in the Cleveland area? Struggling with your current dog's behavior, or just want to start out right with your new puppy's training?

Discover our dog and puppy training services to help your dog to a calmer and happier way of life starting today.

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training and Behavior

Greater Cleveland Area


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