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June 28, 2017

As America’s birthday approaches, the whole country will be going out to barbecues, eating watermelon, and enjoying firework displays. But regardless of how much man may enjoy these activities, man’s best friend may not. 

July 4 can be a terrifying night for dogs afraid of fireworks. While humans come to expect loud booms every holiday, dogs don’t realize what is happening. Their heightened senses can also make the explosions seem much more powerful.

“It’s really important to bring your dog inside for the entire day and night for the Fourth of July,” Melissa Halliburton, founder and president of BringFido, told Travel + Leisure. “Even in a securely fenced-in yard, your dog will find ways to escape and run off if he is spooked by loud noises. In fact, July 5 is the busiest day of the year for U.S. animal shelters because of scared dogs running away due to fireworks.”

On July 3, dog owners should verify that their pet’s collar fits securely and has proper ID tags. It doesn’t hurt to stock up on extra treats to give dogs as a distraction during fireworks.

A Thundershirt may provide some relief for dogs with anxiety. Those unable to pick up a Thundershirt before the big day can DIY one out of any piece of thin fabric.

If pet owners leave their dogs at home to attend a fireworks display, they should leave them in a crate or a secure place, like a bedroom or bathroom. Provide some white noise (like a fan, T.V., or radio) to keep dogs calm. Don’t give them anti-anxiety medication unless you already know how they will react.

It may also help to take a dog for a long walk or play games early in the day to tire them out. With any luck, a dog will be so tired, they’ll fall asleep before fireworks even start.

And it’s never too early to start planning for July 4, 2018. For pet owners dealing with dog anxiety this year, Halliburton recommended beginning desensitization training well in advance so by the time next year’s fireworks come around, dogs will be completely calm.

“A technique that works well is to play a CD with fireworks noises very low in the background while doing something fun with your dog like playing fetch or giving him a bone,” Halliburton told T+L. “Slowly increase the volume with each following training session, turning off the sounds if your dog shows any signs of fear. The goal is to eventually have the sounds very loud with no fear.”

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