10 Ways to Help Your Dog Feel Safe While You Celebrate the Land of the Free

pug wrapped in blanket while fireworks explode in sky
Not everyone enjoys the "bombs bursting in air" (photo by Zuza Galczynska and Matthew Henry)

It’s summer and the fourth of July is here! We all love the good food, friends, and family, but, as for the fireworks, some love it more than others. In the Ruff on the Road pack, for example, Canadian Jess actually loves the brilliant lights and sound, while American Greg grumbles through it usually with earplugs and a sour grimace.

As for German Shepherd Moxie, who was born and raised in Guatemala where fireworks are literally a nightly occurrence, she is totally unmoved when it comes to loud noises. On the other hand, the crack of a twig on the far side of the garden will raise her up in arms, rousing the neighborhood that “the red cats are coming! The red cats are coming!”

Small brown and white puppy hides scared in grass
Keep your pup indoors and away from windows if she doesn't like the "rockets red glare" (photo by Marcus Wallis)

Anyway, most dogs are not fireworks-indifferent like our Moxie. In fact, as founding father Thomas Paine’s dog described it, “These are the times that try dogs’ souls.” One way you can know is that more dogs run away from home on the 4th of July than on any other day throughout the year.

So, if your dog is unaccustomed to or afraid of fireworks, here are a few simple things you can do to make the experience less stressful for your pup.

Black and white pit bull lays on grand looking very sad and scared
What wouldn't you do to make this little guy feel safe? (photo by Nathan Dumlao)
  1. Train your dog way ahead of time. General Charles Lee brought his dogs on campaign during the Revolutionary War and even wrote George Washington to ask that they be sent to keep him company while he garrisoned New York. So, you can bring your pup to a fireworks celebration but you might need to start acclimating your dog to the loud noises several months ahead of time.

  2. Exercise your dog earlier in the day. A tired, sleepy dog is usually happy, complacent, and less excitable. So take your dog out for a good workout a few hours before the fireworks are set to begin. Maybe your dog would like to run and fetch, or maybe go for a swim like George Washington’s favorite dog, Sweet Lips, did to cross the Delaware when there wasn’t any space in the boats.

  3. Try to do all the necessaries beforehand. After you exercise her, feed your dog her normal kibble and then allow time and opportunity to ‘go out’. For we hold this truth to be self-evident: that nobody handles a stressful situation well if they haven’t first had a good poop.

  4. Keep your dog indoors. The best place to be while the fireworks explode “o’er the land of the free” is in a familiar, enclosed place, ideally without windows or at least with the windows shut and curtains closed.

  5. Play music or white noise. Familiar sounds are the best way to drown out the “bombs bursting in air”. A good option is to play an album or playlist that you routinely listen to when your dog is around. Otherwise, white noise is a good, soothing option and hours of it are available on YouTube.

  6. Make the travel kennel available. You might have had your dog sleep in a kennel for the first weeks or months after they joined your pack. If so, then that kennel is probably a safe and comforting place. In that case, where better to hunker down until “the dawn’s early light”?

  7. Don’t give your dog any people foods. If you’re anything like Greg, you’re a total sucker for sharing a bit of your meal with your dog. However, amidst all the tumult, excitement, and stress of “the rockets red glare”, keep the diet simple, bland, and routine to avoid an upset tummy.

  8. Swaddling isn’t just for babies. If you have a smaller dog, you might pick her up and hold her close while she’s scared. That might be tricky if you have a Great Dane. Either way, consider swaddling your scared pup in a thundershirt. If you don’t have one, use a towel or even a familiar article of your own clothing. Even better, this is the perfect time to un-zip your TenderPaw TREKKER Bedroll and let your nervous pup hunker down in the soft, plush, sleeping bag interior until the “twilight’s last gleaming”.

  9. Try to keep busy. An occupied, entertained pup simply has less bandwidth for being nervous. So, you might try doing some training with treats, playing fetch, or giving your dog a bone or KONG. It might be an especially good time to show off your dog’s party tricks like how during a 1775 dinner party General Charles Lee had his Pomeranian, Spado, climb up on a chair and present his paw for Abigail Adams to shake.

  10. Make sure you dog is wearing an ID tag. Despite your very best efforts, it’s still possible that you’re dog just ain’t havin’ it and decides to flee the coop. A nervous dog, desperate to flee shall, as John F. Kennedy’s dog Charlie might have said, “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship” to get the heck out of there! So, just make sure she’s wearing her collar and ID tag.

We hope these tips help your whole pack enjoy the 4th of July. Have fun and stay safe!