How to calm down a stressed dog on the Fourth of July

How to calm down a stressed dog on the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July holiday might look a little different this year, but there’s still bound to be a few stress-inducing activities happening in your neighborhood! Here’s how to keep your dog calm through it all.

Fourth of July is almost here! It’s an unprecedented year when many large gatherings and big fireworks shows may be limited due to COVID-19. But backyard barbecues and neighbors setting off fireworks in the street can still be traumatizing for dogs, whose fight-or-flight instinct may be raised by loud sounds and bright lights during even small-scale celebrations.

Sometimes best practices, like bringing your dog inside, providing them a special den-like area they can retreat to (like a crate or kennel), closing windows and curtains to reduce noise and bright flashes, and turning on a TV, radio, or relaxing music at normal volume to distract from any outside hubbub, may be enough to calm your pup during the festivities. But what happens if Rover is still anxious? Here are some time-honored tips to help you soothe your pup during the holiday celebrations.

Keep calm and carry on

Dogs look to pack leaders for guidance in tense situations. By cementing your leadership role and status as a trusted, respected figure, you can help reassure your dog of her safety. Model calm behavior by speaking matter-of-factly instead of in a sympathetic voice and avoid cuddles – dogs can interpret these behaviors as approval for their nervousness, further exacerbating it.

Make them think

Dogs can’t think about two things at once, so engaging their brains is a great way to calm them down. First, grab a fixed-length leash and hook your dog up, then start walking around your house. Use your furniture and floorplan as an obstacle course, encouraging Rover to follow along while keeping a loose leash. Constantly change directions – eventually, your dog will start watching you and following your movements. Once her brain switches gears, continued movement will help dispel the adrenaline.

Go back to basics

Once your dog is focused on you, start incorporating her basic obedience skills. Get to a doorway and ask her to sit or wait; get near her den and have her lay down on her dog bed for a short period. Praise her for following your instructions while maintaining the same calm, measured tone of voice. Remember: your job is to make your pup think.

Once your dog is attentive, focused, and following instructions, you might be able to get her to take a treat. If she does, this is a good sign – she is no longer focused on distressing sights and sounds. If she doesn’t, she may still be too stressed, so continue walking and providing distractions until she is ready. Treat-dispensing toys or treat-centric games can also help divert (and maintain) your dog’s attention.

Fourth of July doesn’t need to be a source of anxiety for you or your dog. A little preparation, strong, cool-headed leadership, and healthy distractions mean your pup can have a safe, comfortable, and stress-free holiday too – just like us humans.

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