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6 Ways to Help Your Dog Survive the Fourth of July

Fireworks are meant to represent “bombs bursting in air”—and to dogs and cats, that’s exactly what they sound like. Animals have no way of knowing that the bangs, whistles, and booms are supposed to be “entertainment.” To them, it sounds like the British are not only coming but also winning—and they aren’t taking any prisoners.

Dogs have jumped over fences, broken chains, and even leaped through glass doors—sometimes seriously injuring themselves in the process—in a desperate (and futile) effort to escape the bombardment. Last Independence Day, I saw a dog running through my neighborhood in a blind panic. (I tried to catch him, but he was gone in a flash.) Not surprisingly, animal shelters report an increase in the number of lost cats and dogs after fireworks displays. Many animals who get lost on the Fourth of July are never found.

Play it safe by taking the following precautions to help your animal companions survive the annual reenactment of the Revolutionary War as comfortably as possible:

1. Never take dogs to fireworks displays or leave them outside alone. Instead, keep cats and dogs indoors, and if possible, stay home with them.

2. Make sure that your animal companions are wearing a collar or a harness with an up-to-date identification tag—just in case they slip out the door.

3. Close all your windows and curtains. Frightened dogs sometimes attempt to jump out of windows, even on upper floors. Turn on a radio that’s tuned to a classical-music station, put in a CD specially designed to calm dogs such as Through a Dog’s Ear, or turn on the TV, window air conditioner, fan, or dehumidifier to help drown out the sound of the fireworks.

4. Distract your dog by playing games, and give your dog a treat when he or she ignores an explosion. (In addition to being a reward, food has a beneficial effect on brain chemistry.)

Baxter the Chihuahua Dog Eating a Treat

5. PETA director Karen Porreca’s dog Sarah loves her Thundershirt, which provides gentle, consistent pressure that helps dogs feel more secure and relaxed during fireworks displays and thunderstorms.

6. Melatonin (a hormone that our bodies produce naturally) has worked wonders for my dog, Jasper, who has been on a daily dose ever since Memorial Day—and its fireworks displays. (Consult your vet for dosage instructions.) Other calming supplements include NutriCalm or Quiet Moments, which contain herbs and L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid and precursor to serotonin that helps regulate mood.

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