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Let's Talk About...The 4th of July

Updated: Sep 26, 2023


Fourth of July Dog

Happy Independence Day! Did you know that animal control agencies see a 30% increase in lost pets between July 4th and July 6th? Many people don't realize the importance of securing their pets during fireworks season (be it Independence Day, New Year's, or any other holiday on the calendar) until they've lost their pets and scramble frantically to find them. With a few simple steps, you can make sure your dog (or cat) is safe and sound this 4th of July.


Don't become a statistic. From securing your pet during fireworks to finding them if they do get loose, read on to learn how to keep your pet safe during the celebrations.


Table of Contents


 

Why do dogs get scared and go missing on the 4th of July?


No dog is safe from fireworks. Even if you can't hear them, your dog can. Fireworks may even be illegal in your area, but there will always be that one person that disregards the law. The highest ranges a dog can hear are between 47,000 and 65,000 Hz, depending on the breed, whereas even the most sensitive human ear can only hear up to 20,000 Hz. For perspective, you would need to add 48 extra keys to the right-hand side of a piano to hit the highest notes a dog could hear. This means that dogs can hear much higher frequencies at much greater distances than humans can. So even if you can't hear those fireworks going off, your dog can, and it usually sounds like someone shrieking directly into his ear.


This shrieking sound is distressing to your dog. When dogs are distressed, they try to get away, which is why so many dogs go missing during the 4th of July. Many dogs will act frantically in order to get away: jump fences they never have before; dig under fences even though they are typically diggers; scratch, bite, and pound against doors to get through them; or even chew through wire crates, metal vents, or nylon ropes to escape wherever they are being kept. Then, because it's nearly impossible for them to escape the fireworks, they keep running until they are exhausted, sometimes resulting in them ending up miles away from home.


How can I keep my dog safe this 4th of July?


Worry not! Below are some tips and tricks for keeping your furry best friend from becoming a stray.


Bring Them Inside

Many people leave their dogs outside, especially in the country. While I don't support this for many reasons (my pets are my family, and I wouldn't want my family to tie me up outside in the heat or cold), I do understand that it happens. However, if you have a dog who reacts badly to fireworks, do yourself a favor and bring them inside during fireworks season. It is easier to keep them calm and safe inside the house than out in the yard, where they may break their tether or jump or dig under the fence.


Don't Give Them Too Much Room

Dogs are den animals: they like small, dark spaces. It makes them feel safe and can help calm a scared dog. Setting them up in the laundry room is a good start. My personal dog, Bella, commandeers the closet under the stairs whenever she is stressed. However, an even better solution is to set them up in a crate. Give them a blanket or a bed (so long as you know they won't chew it up) to make it comfy, and use another blanket to cover the crate. It will make it even darker and will help to deaden the noise from the fireworks a little. If you need help with crate training, you can contact Every Dog Training.


Cancel Out the Noise

In addition to setting up the crate, you can also help deaden the noise of the fireworks with some music or white noise. Many dogs are soothed by classical music, reggae, soft rock, or the sounds of waterfalls. Experiment to see which one your dog prefers.


Distract Them

Another trick is to distract them. Just like with humans, you can distract dogs from their fear. Play a game. Give them a snuffle mat. Work on basic training. Any of these things will engage their mind and distract them from their fear.


Medication

Many people give their dogs medication or supplements to help their anxiety. I know people who give their dogs Benadryl to help them sleep. Hemp chews have become a big hit recently. However, as with any medication or supplement, you need to speak with your vet first. They all have side effects. I once knew a dog who was given a hemp chew for his anxiety. Instead of calming down, he got the munchies and chewed the drywall off his run. I personally have never given Bella any type of medication or supplement for anxiety, so I can neither speak for nor against them. However, as I said, always speak with your vet first, especially if your dog is already on some type of medication.


Desensitization

One of the best things you can do is desensitize your dog to fireworks. If your dog isn't scared, it won't have a reason to run away. This can be a long, sometimes difficult, process, so it's best to get professional help for something like desensitization. If you're interested in starting this type of training for your dog, Every Dog Training is here to help.


What do I do if my dog goes missing this 4th of July?


First Things First: Be Prepared!

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. I wouldn't recommend having a collar on your dog at this time, because a frantic dog can get their collar caught on something and strangle themselves. If you decide to leave the collar on, go ahead and invest in a tracking tag. This will make them easier to find if they get out. However, even better than a collar that might come off or be taken off is a microchip. Get your dog (all of your pets for that matter) chipped. Make sure the chip is registered (contrary to popular belief, it does not have to be registered with the manufacturing company; you can register a HomeAgain chip with PetLink and vice versa) and that your information is up to date. There's no reason to get your dog chipped if you aren't going to bother having your contact information linked to it.


Second Things Second: Get the Word Out

You'd be surprised what a group of people can do when working together. If your dog gets out, enlist the help of the community. Post flyers anywhere you can (remember, it's illegal to leave flyers in mailboxes). Post on Facebook pet groups and pages. Go door-to-door. Ask at vets' offices and any local shelters or rescues. Be sure to have pictures and contact information ready to give to anyone who asks for it and let them know your dog is chipped (because it is, right?). Do not call your municipal shelter about your missing dog; go in person! Shelter employees sometimes see hundreds of dogs in a single day, depending on where you're located. They might not remember seeing your dog, or they might have been on break when your dog was brought in. Also, your dog might not look like your dog anymore. Just because you describe a white dog doesn't mean your dog didn't go running through the mud and busy shelter employees think it's actually a brown dog. The only way to know for sure that your dog isn't at the shelter is for you to go and look at the dogs they have.


Finally, Take Notes for the next 4th of July


Hopefully, you find your dog. Luckily, most reports show that about 90% of lost dogs are reunited with their owners, a percentage that increases for microchipped pets whose information is up to date.


So, after you've loved on your best friend because he's finally home, start taking notes. What worked and what didn't work? How did your dog get out? What are things you can do differently for next year? Can you implement some of the practices mentioned above?


Once you know the answers, implement them! Start crate training if that's what you need to do. If you want to desensitize, start looking for trainers in your area (make sure they can actually do desensitization work). If you think medications or supplements are the way to go, get on the phone with your vet. Whatever it is you feel will make next year safer for your dog, do it! Don't put your dog, your family, or yourself through this again.


Let's Talk About... is Every Dog Training's blog, where you can find tips, tricks, and information on raising a puppy, training a dog, and finding a new best friend.


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