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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fourth of July Dog Safety

Fourth of July Dog Safety

Did you know that dogs can detect sounds in the frequency range of approximately 40 - 60,000 Hz (varies with different breeds) and humans can only detect frequencies within a range of 20 - 23,000 Hz?

Dogs also have 18 muscles in their ears that allow them to tilt, rotate and scan for sounds. 


Keeping this in mind, with ears 10 times more sensitive than humans, sounds that seem loud to people often tend to emit high frequency tones that can scare away dogs. Also the loud unpredictable bangs can cause a fearful/stressful reaction. Even for short periods of time this can be a terrifying event for your canine companion.

Tex-Anna's reaction to fireworks. We originally didn't know the neighbor had set them off.
How do you know if your dog is stressed?
  • Wide (bugged out) eyes
  • Excessive salivation
  • Frantic movement or pacing
  • Whining
  • Excessive barking
  • Hiding in places they don't normally go
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Inability to relax
What do you do?

One thing that is hard for many dog owners to understand is that dogs are not people, for example; they cannot be soothed out of situations the way you would attempt to do with a human child. They can't verbally tell you what is wrong or scaring them.

Dogs react based on your energy (they can share feelings and are very sensitive to your emotions), if you are calm and relaxed it will help your dog to relax because they will see that their human is unfazed by the situation that is causing them stress.

Dogs also respond to positives and negatives, one way to think of this is that at all times you are either giving approval or disapproval for their behaviors.

What does this mean for soothing? 

Like humans children, dogs react to both their own emotions and your demeanor. 

Some dogs become clingy, act out (destructive behaviors), or shut down in stressful situations. For some dogs, touch and contact can relieve anxiety, stress, and fear. This does not work for all dogs.
You cannot help your dog if you are tense, stressed, or excusing their bad behavior away.
If you are tense and reacting to their bad behavior and anxiety you will be feeding it, and the cycle of stress and anxiousness can escalate into a big problem.

Our former foster Tex-Anna could not be soothed, any attempt to soothe escalated her fear and anxiety. The best thing for her was to just place her in a dark and quiet room with some classical music in the background, that and a vet prescribed sedative and she sleeps much calmer during the fourth. She really hates fireworks.

A completely different case: When I was growing up we had a dog named Shaviah, she was a German Shepard, Rottweiler mix. Fireworks absolutely freaked her out. We adopted her as an adult dog, and quickly learned that fireworks were a problem. What worked best for her was cuddling, my dad (also not a huge fireworks fan) would sit in our dark laundry room, play classical music on the radio, and cuddle with Shaviah. As long as someone sat with her she would quietly, and restlessly make it through the fourth of July incident free. One year however we had a neighbor set off fireworks very late in the summer, she panicked so terribly that she succeeded in destroying our metal gate on our backyard fence, cutting her face and chest up in the process. After that we decided she'd do best living with my grandparents on their property far away from fireworks.

Just like you would with a human child, step away from the situation, take a few deep breaths, take the lead, and be patient. If you are speaking in soothing tones, and have a calm demeanor, you can influence their behavior in a positive manner.

Photo Attribution: Darren Teagles
The Matter of Fireworks..

Just like people dogs can show different levels of fear, phobias are typically characterized by intense fear reactions that interfere with their normal functioning. If your dog has problems with fireworks there are a few things that you can do to help keep them safe and provide comfort.
  • Do not take your dog to a fireworks show.
    • During the 3rd - 6th of July their is a 30-60% increase in lost pets due to fireworks. The 4th of July however tends to be the most stressful. According the the American Humane Association July 5th is the busiest day of the year for shelters "as companion animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted. Anxious families often find themselves searching the streets and shelters looking for a treasured family member whose fear drove him to jump a high fence or break his leash or chain."
    • Make sure your dog has proper I.D. - I'm a big fan of micro-chipping.
  • Keep your dog inside - in a panic situation dogs will do whatever they think necessary to try and escape the fear.
    • Basements or windowless bathrooms are a good and quiet place to put your canine for the evening as the noise won't be so loud there.
    • Some dogs are also fearful of flashing lights so be aware and keep the drapes closed!
  • Crating is the perfect safe environment for your dogonly if they are accustomed to crating, now is not the time to start training.
  • Consider taking your dog to a friend or family members home that is fireworks free.
  • Exercise your dog before the festivities - a tired dog will be more calm to begin with.
  • Natural Calming medications/Thundershirt - speak to your vet before giving your animal any sort of natural  or over-the-counter medication.
Photo Attribution: Fake Plastic Alice via FlickrAnd if worse comes to worse you can always talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of sedating your dog for the evening.

Tips to Remember in Dealing with Fear:
  • Never punish your dog for their fear.  Punishment will only make the fear worse.
  • Remain as Calm as possible.
    • Dogs are extremely good at reading body language and emotions. If you are concerned or tense it will only add to their fear. Speak in soothing tones
  • Pretend it's no big deal.
    • If you aren't worried, why should they be? Your dog needs to see your example that it isn't a big deal.
  • Counter Condition.
    • Keep in mind, not all dogs however can be counter conditioned to fireworks.

More Reading:


  1. Great tips. We have neighbors that like giant fireworks. Storm could care less but the other two are not fans. Not looking forward to it.

  2. The "it's no big deal" really does work. Rodrigo has always had a fear of fireworks and thunderstorms, but as long as I don't reward that fear by giving him loads of praise when he's terrified, he slowly relaxes. I know this won't work for all dogs, but I'm so thankful that it worked for Rodrigo.

  3. I'm a huge believer in dogs mirroring our human energy, so I make sure I'm relaxed and calm whenever fireworks are being set off or a thunderstorm comes through. I also make sure our pups are properly exercised every day, and especially on those holidays which tend to be on the louder side. I'll be lighting a lavender candle for extra relaxation :-)

  4. Good advice! Luckily me and Stanley are not scared.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  5. Excellent point that every dogs needs different kinds of soothing. It's always good advice to step back and listen to what your dog is telling you.

    I saw a 8-10 week old German shepherd puppy in the back of a truck at the fireworks the other night. I wondered if they weren't setting themselves up for big problems in the future.

    But who knows?


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