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The 4th of July: Tips To Calm a Nervous Dog

While many dogs do not enjoy the Fourth of July as we do, there are some who truly do not tolerate it. Having lived with dogs that are extremely noise sensitive, I understand the pains an owner can go through every July.

The frantic pacing, cowering, climbing up me (my oldest sheltie seemed to think she would be safe if she was on my head), and constant barking can make you nervous and ruin any get together. It is not healthy for your dog, either. Just imagine if you lived in that state!

Of course, the best thing to do is find a positive reinforcement behavior modification trainer to help you train your dog to be more comfortable in these types of situations.TR

However, in the short term, the next best thing is management. This will help your nervous dog get through this year’s Independence Day celebrations without too much stress or discomfort.

Plan Ahead

Are you going to be home? Does your neighborhood shoot off a lot of fireworks? Are you having a party so there may be added stressors (strangers, young kids, loud music, etc)? When do your neighbors start shooting off fireworks – two days ahead? A week? Do they continue after the fourth?

All of these are questions you need to ask yourself so you can plan what is best for your dog. Then, be sure to have these supplies on hand a few days before the noise starts so you are ready:

  • Crate (if your dog is crate trained)
  • Blankets
  • Favorite treats/toys/chewies (make sure it is HIGH VALUE)
  • TV/Radio/Fan (For white noise)
  • Thundershirt®
  • All natural, Over The Counter Calming Aid (I have used Quiet Moments and liked the results)
  • Vet prescribed calming aid if necessary

I highly recommend “testing” the calming aid and Thundershirt® prior to the day to make sure they are affective on your dog. You can do this by using a CD of sounds that includes fireworks or find a video online. Ask your vet about doing this for any prescribed medicine as well. Do not assume something is going to work.


If you have a place you normally board your dog, a doggy daycare, pet hotel, vet clinic, even a friend’s, that is not near any firework shows, you may find it is best both for you and your dog to just have them spend the night on the Fourth. While you may still have to manage her the days leading up to, at least the main night she will be taken care of.

This is especially a good option if you were planning on going to watch fireworks and would otherwise leave your dog home alone that night.

Wrapping your dog in blankets and giving her a a favorite toy can help them relax
Wrapping your dog in blankets and giving her a a favorite toy can help them relax

Fourth of July Night

Set your dog up in a quiet area of the house. If they are crate trained, even better. Give them soft blankets, and cover the crate. Turn on your “white noise,” whether it’s a TV, radio, and/or a fan. Give your dog something to chew on and a favorite toy.

  • Exercise your dog before medicating them – the more tired they are, the easier it will be for them to sleep through the noise
  • Feed dinner early in case they will not eat later
  • Potty them – most fearful dogs will not want to go to the bathroom once the noise starts
  • Medicate them BEFORE the noise starts, per the directions on the label
  • Get them settled in their “quiet zone” BEFORE the noise starts. The hope is that they never even hear the fireworks.
  • Put the blanket in the dryer for a minute to make it warm and snuggly (unless it’s really hot where you are)
  • If you are using a Thundershirt, remember to only leave it on 20 minutes at a time
  • Make sure they have plenty of water
  • Make sure they have their ID Tags on, in case they get out and run away
  • Check on them frequently. It’s best if you can set it up so you can see them without disturbing them (in case they are asleep). A small camera is perfect for this.

Remember, some people start setting of fireworks before dark. Ask your neighbors when they plan to start if you are not sure. Also, remember you may have to do this the night after the Fourth too.

If at any time your dog seems overly stressed, going into to shock, etc., take them to the nearest emergency vet.

About the Author

Based in Tustin, Calif., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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