Whether or not it’s your first July 4th as a pet owner, it’s not rocket science that dogs and fireworks don’t exactly mix. In fact, if you’ve been to any public fireworks display before, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed at least one pup not having a good time. The loud bangs and crackles easily startle our canine counterparts. Even just being in a crowded public space can trigger dog anxiety, as can a seemingly simple backyard barbecue.

Until technology (or magic) figures out seamless human-canine communication, there’s no way to explain July 4th to your dog and automatically put their stress at ease. But don’t let that start stressing you out. With the right knowledge, tools, and a bit of effort, you can soothe your dog’s anxiety during fireworks and other Independence Day revelry, setting you both on a positive path for celebrations to come.

Good news! By reading this article, you’re already tackling the first step.

Know the Subtle Signs of Dog Stress

Barking and whining are obvious signs of stress and anxiety in dogs. But the other indicators can be a lot more nuanced than many pet owners realize:

  • Cowering — A dog acting skittish at a July 4th gathering is likely not having a good time.
  • Pacing — A relaxed dog is comfortable laying down or sitting. An anxious dog is more likely to pace around as though they are looking for something.
  • Lip licking, yawning or panting — Pay attention to your dog’s mouth. If they are displaying any compulsive behaviors, they could be stressed out.
  • Aggression — Dogs experiencing stress may lash out unexpectedly at other people and pets.
  • Avoiding eye contact — Dogs who are nervous may avoid looking anyone directly in the eye, including their pet owners.
  • Behavioral changes — These can stem from a wide range of causes, but they may be stress-related when occurring in conjunction with Fourth of July stimuli.
  • Self scratching / chewing — Stressed pups may try to scratch or chew themselves repetitively, often in the same spot.
  • Other inappropriate chewing — In addition to their own bodies, anxious dogs may lick, chew, or try to eat inedible items.
  • Appetite changes — Usually associated with longer-term anxiety, your dog may either not want to eat or may be eating more rapidly than usual. 
  • Urinating indoors — Dogs under stress may not be able to control their bathroom habits and may need to go more frequently. They may also urinate as a territory marker to feel more in control.
  • Gastrointestinal issues — When feeling extremely stressed-out, dogs may develop diarrhea or stomach upset.

Always take changes to your dog’s health seriously and seek veterinary attention if they occur.

short-coat brown dog lying on blue and white striped bedspread

Causes of Canine Anxiety on July 4th 

While loud noises are the obvious factor here, the reality is that there are numerous things that can trigger stress and anxiety in dogs on the Fourth of July. By getting familiar with the common stressors, you can become more adept at helping your dog avoid them:

  • Fireworks (yes, this is still the big one)
  • Big groups of people, including many strangers
  • Other pets in public
  • Unfamiliar spaces
  • New sounds and smells (including distracting food scents)
  • People screaming and cheering
  • Loud music
  • Change from your dog’s normal daily routine
  • Hot temperatures

With these in mind, it’s important to remember that dogs are individuals who may be bothered by different things. Some do perfectly fine in large public crowds, but a backyard barbecue on their own turf may be too much of a change. Likewise, many dogs may be okay with just one or two of the above stress factors, but experiencing them all at once on the Fourth of July could wind up being highly stress-inducing. 

But it’s just one day! My dog will be fine, right?

You know that July 4th is just one day, but your dog doesn’t. While dog stress in general is usually fleeting, the anxiety-inducing triggers on Independence Day often start early in the afternoon and run late. The noises and atmosphere changes can likewise be so different from your pet’s usual routine that they can cause deep, lasting feelings of anxiety.

When this happens, stress can negatively impact your dog’s health. Similar to humans suffering from anxiety disorders, dogs under stress can experience everything from appetite issues to more serious conditions like a weakened immune system. So, to prevent extra veterinary visits (and an even more unhappy pet), it’s wise to take precautions.

brown short coated small dog on persons lap

8 Tips to Help with Dog Anxiety this Fourth of July

Take steps upfront to prevent stress in dogs.

1. Reconsider bringing your dog along

As much as you may want to celebrate Independence Day with your dog at your side, think about what’s actually best for them. Dogs should only be brought to events — outdoor or indoor — that they can feel at ease at. This is as much for their safety as it is for those around them. Many dogs who have been properly socialized enjoy gatherings, but even they may not do well if fireworks or other loud noises are involved. 

2. Create a safe retreat

All dogs need a safe, quiet space to escape to on July 4th. Whether you’re hosting a gathering or leaving your dog at home, set up a nice, peaceful area for them. Ideally, this should be as far away from windows as possible, both for noise and to prevent startled dogs from attempting escape. Ensure they have a cozy spot to lay down and have food and water in easy access. Consider leaving the TV or radio on (gentle music only) to help mitigate the noise outside.

If you’re attending an all-day barbecue elsewhere, ask the host if you can bring your dog’s crate (with a blanket and some toys inside) just in case they need a break.

3. Update your dog’s identification info

July also happens to be National Lost Pet Prevention Month. And, according to the AKC, more pets go missing during Independence Day weekend than any other time of the year. This is because dogs startled by loud noises (such as fireworks) may take off running or seek places to hide.

So, take time now to update your dog’s microchip and dog tag information. Though if your dog does wind up getting loose, every second matters. This is why it’s a good idea to get a smart collar while you’re making sure your pet’s info is current. The Fi collar comes with both GPS tracking and instant escape alerts — advantages microchips and regular collars just don’t have. 

4. Check in and take breaks

No matter how you celebrate Independence Day, keep an eye on your pup. Be sure to check in with them frequently — take them to a quieter area and pet them to help ensure they’re staying calm and collected. Even dogs having fun during gatherings will need the occasional break to avoid overstimulation.

If you are leaving your dog home while you go out, take steps to prevent separation anxiety. This may mean returning home periodically to take them out for a walk and check in, if you’re planning on celebrating all day long.

5. Keep your dog hydrated

Stressed-out dogs may pant heavily or over-exert themselves. On a hot day like the Fourth of July, this can quickly lead to heatstroke or dehydration. If hosting a party at home, be sure to set up bowls of fresh water both indoors and out. Going out? Bring along a doggy water bottle or portable dish with plenty of extra water on hand.

Check in with your pet and offer them some water at least once per hour, more often if it’s hotter than usual. Along with keeping them hydrated, this will help provide a break from the hubbub around you.

6. Do practice runs

Going out for the Fourth? Don’t just throw your dog into your plans. Only expose them to a house party after they’ve successfully navigated similar events. It can help to do some extra practicing with smaller groups of people leading up to the holiday. Note that this only works if your dog has already been socialized and is used to being around others.

If you are planning to bring your dog along to a fireworks show — and again, this should only be done with extreme caution — make sure it’s a place your pet is familiar with. Take your dog for walks around the area in the weeks beforehand, letting them sniff and get fully acquainted with the area. You’ll still need to take plenty of precautions during the actual event, but this can help lessen the likelihood of a dog anxiety attack. 

7. Ask your veterinarian for tips

Stress and anxiety in dogs have become increasingly visible as medical issues in recent years. While medication should never be the first course of action, it may be appropriate if your pet has a long history of being easily stressed-out. If you’re concerned about anxiety affecting your dog in any way though, give your veterinarian a call. They may be able to provide some additional tips for ways to soothe them and keep them safe. 

8. Have a back-up plan

Dog anxiety should always be taken seriously. And on this busy holiday, it’s crucial to make sure your dog’s needs come first. If you do notice something isn’t right, take action quickly to prevent your pet running away or experiencing adverse health effects.

This may mean having to wind down your July 4th plans earlier than anticipated. It’s always a good idea to have a back-up plan that involves a quieter evening at home — consider ending the day with a movie or watching fireworks from your window instead. At the end of the day, keeping your dog calm and safe is just as worthy of celebration.

brown and white short coated dog