The Fourth of July can be rough for dogs. Fireworks displays light up their senses with unfamiliar noises, flashes, and smells, and parties flood their homes with strange guests who may invade the rooms they usually have as private retreats. And when distressed dogs escape, howl, or thrash around the house, Independence Day can quickly become a nightmare for their owners, too. To minimize Fido's stress this holiday, we spoke to some dog experts to discover the best ways to keep your canine calm on the Fourth of July.
1. Exercise Your Dog.
Anthony Newman, the dog whisperer who runs New York City's Calm Energy Dog Training, says exercise is a great way to help your dog let off some nervous energy. “Whenever Fido is going to be neglected for an extended period of time, or around any stressful stimuli, it always helps to tire him out just before—and even during the night if you can,” Newman told Mental Floss in 2017. “As the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog! He'll be calmer, happier, and more peaceful.”
2. Keep Your Dog Indoors.
Dr. Stephanie Liff, head veterinarian and co-owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York City, says the best place to keep your pet during a fireworks show is inside and away from the windows. “If the pet is very scared, an escape-proof crate or a sound-insulated room, such as an internal bathroom, may help the pet to feel more secure,” Liff told Mental Floss in 2017. “If you cannot keep your pet inside, make sure that the pet is prevented from escape (monitor all exits and tell guests to monitor your pet).”
3. Socialize Your Dog.
While your dog may feel more secure in a room away from all the noise, Newman points out that keeping your dog isolated in another room for too long can be stressful for your pet. “Release his curiosity and let him in on the fun, to run around and play with two-legged as well as four-legged guests,” Newman said. “Then back to his obedient room, bed, car, crate, or spot. Rinse and repeat as needed throughout the night.”
4. Take Control of Your Dog.
According to Newman, the best way to keep your dog calm during the chaos of July 4th is to stay in charge. “If your dog winces, shivers, and runs away at loud noises, the last thing he wants is to feel like nobody else is looking out for him,” Newman said. Don't let your dog run rampant around the house or follow him around trying to soothe him. Instead, Newman says it's important to “take control by attaching a super-light leash that you can grab and lead him whenever you need.”
5. Explore Medication for Your Dog.
In extreme cases of nervousness, Liff said that you should talk to your vet about medication to sedate your dog.
A version of this article originally ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2022.