Keep your dog safe this July 4

Keep your dog safe this July 4

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So many of the things that make Independence Day special for us make it a nightmare for dogs.

On this holiday, more dogs are lost than any other day of the year because of the frightening noises and lights. The coming and going of guests often provide opportunities for dogs to flee in fear.

According to dog trainer Cesar Millan, one of the best ways to protect your dog is to remove it from the midst of the festivities.

“Don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on a great, fun time,” he writes in his blog. “That’s human guilt and trust me, the dog won’t know what he’s missing.  You’re being a good pack leader by not exposing him to a situation that will trigger his flight instinct in a negative way.”

A little bit of planning can help keep your dog safe, healthy and calmer. The chart below shows just a few of the ways that dogs experience the holiday differently than we do.


What we experience

What our dog experiences


Beautiful colors, exciting booms and pops, dancing fire and sparkles. Unexplainable flashes of light, thunderous noises, screams, unpredictable fire, an intense desire to flee.


Relaxing with friends and neighbors; greeting arriving guests; catching up with friends. Too many strangers and intruders, open doors and gates, no one paying attention.

Picnics and BBQs

Cooking outdoors on the grill, piles of burgers and hot dogs, chicken, steak, condiments, onions, tomatoes, grilled vegetables, chips and dip, summer fruits, including grapes. Plates left where I can easily get to them, loads of fabulous smells, guests easily touched by begging brown eyes.

Relaxing with a drink

Beer, wine and cocktails. “What’s this? That burger made me thirsty.”

Holiday break

A change from the daily grind. Going to a parade. Getting ready for guests or going out. Stress. “When are we going on our walk? Why is it late? Why is it short? What are you so busy with? Why can’t we play?”

Planning ahead and using the five tips below can help you avoid having a dog so frightened it runs away away or that gets sick from unfamiliar or even dangerous foods and beverages.

Five holiday dog safety tips

  1. Double check the ID tags. Check that you dog’s collar fits well and has all of his identification tags securely attached in case the dog gets loose. A collar should allow you to put two fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar. It shouldn’t be so loose it can snag or slip off.  The collar should have the dog’s license — this shows his rabies vaccination is up to date and helps Animal Control contact you if he gets loose — and a tag with your phone number on it. If your dog has a microchip, be sure contact information you registered with the chip company is up to date.
  2. Calm the fear. Fireworks are terrifying to many dogs. It can help to keep the dog indoors with the windows and doors shut. An air conditioner, radio or television can help mask the sounds. For some dogs, an anti-anxiety wrap such as a Thundershirt can help. If your dog gets severely anxious, consult your vet. A sedative may be in order.
  3. Mind the menu. Most dogs are opportunistic eaters. If a guest sets down a plate to refresh a drink or get dessert, the dog will be there to check it out. Tell your guests early not to feed the dog from their plates. Foods like onions, grapes and the avocado in guacamole can harm your dog. Other foods — spicy marinades on meats, for example — can upset the dog’s digestion.
  4. Stick to routine. Dogs feel secure with routine. There’s much about a holiday that isn’t routine but if you can stick to the basics — walking at the same times and eating the usual food at the usual time — it will make life a little less stressful for your dog.
  5. Take the dog for a LONG walk. A long walk before nightfall and the fireworks start can help settle a dog down. A tired dog is more likely to sleep and object less to being kept away from guests and unhealthy temptations.

Learn more about how to take care of your dog this Fourth of July in this post.