coaching for dog owners

Helping humans be their best for their dogs

Celebration For Us

Independence Day, often casually (and shamefully) referred to simply by the date it occurs on, is a celebration of the birth of the nation we know as the United States of America.  It is one of the single most important days of the year to reflect upon history and educate one’s self on the path this land has taken.  I am a U.S. citizen and to me, this day is damn important.

This celebration is also known for its plentiful hotdogs, hamburgers, and most everybody’s personal favorite, FIREWORKS.

I said MOST everybody’s, as there is often times one family member who dreads this day more than any other in the year.


A Complete Nightmare For Your Dog

That’s right, because while Fido may love the smell of the grill fired up and some scrumptious left overs and treats throughout the day, the evening brings absolute terror.

Many dogs simply put, are TOTALLY freaked out by loud noises such as fireworks.  We must remember what a dog is and how they have some seriously super hero powers (I explain in detail how those powers work in my instruction book for owning a dog Operation Dog, it’s free and you should have already read it…a link was in the pop up you already closed but you can also get it by clicking HERE).

Fireworks can cause extreme stress and anxiety for many dogs

One of those super powers is their amazing hearing.

Most breeds of dog can hear sounds a whopping 4X farther away than the average human.  That’s a huge difference.  Then factor in that they can hear sounds outside of our perceivable frequency range and you got some serious sound catchers in those floppy ears of theirs!

With that knowledge I want you to simply use your imagination to think about what fireworks sound like.  Honestly, I don’t even like it when a fire engine passes me, with the high pitched sound and loud volume actually making me wish that it would stop IMMEDIATELY! That discomfort is minuscule in comparison to the feeling many dogs experience on July 4th.

While some dogs are 100% ok with this, many are not.  Anxiety goes through the roof for many dogs and the resulting behavior can vary.  While some will simply hide in the closet or under a bed, others will act out and literally turn into whirlwinds of anxiety barking, whining, chewing, digging etc etc.  It doesn’t take a behaviorist or vet to look at a dog in distress and realize they are super stressed out and not in a good place mentally.

Making all of this even worse, many dogs tend to escape their homes and run away in all the panic and anxiety.  The results of this are bad all the way around, with ending up in a shelter or even worse, a very real possibility.



How To Recognize Symptoms Of Increasing Anxiety

All of us could benefit from learning as much about how our dogs express themselves.  While they can’t expressly tell us what is wrong or how they feel with words, they do communicate very clearly with body language even if we don’t understand what it means.

Stress and anxiety can be identified through a number of physical cues.  Simply seeing one of these doesn’t exactly mean the dog is unhappy but when you see them in combination with others, or you see more than a couple of these signs, it is a good indicator that the dog definitely isn’t  in a “chill” state of mind.

Things to look for

  • lip licking 
  • yawning
  • excessive scratching
  • pacing
  • chewing on paws or tail
  • panting even when indoors and in a/c
  • excessive salivation
  • shaking as if they just got wet, only their not

These are just a few very basic things our dogs do when they are feeling anxious or even distressed.  When you see several in conjunction with one another at the very least it’s time to pause and see if you can determine what the cause might be.  In this case, we already know why we are looking as the fireworks begin going off!


The #1 Way To Help Your Dog Cope

So here we go, it’s not rocket science or even that difficult to comprehend.

The single best way to deal with this situation is something you actually have already just done.


By reading this article you have taken the first and most important step to helping your dog deal with the worst dog holiday in the United States.  Recognizing that this day is a potential problem is the first and most important step.  Realize that you will absolutely have to put together a plan for how you are going to deal with your dog on this stressful day.  While some people’s version of planning is simply getting a pill ready to throw at the dog hoping it puts them into a state of drowsy and groggy numbness, there are several other NON-drug related things you can do to significantly decrease the stress of the evening’s explosive celebration.


Go for a damn walk!   Yes, going for a long walk before the evening fires up and kicks off will help your dog cope when things get loud.  We are talking about anxiety right? Anxiety takes energy to fuel it, so the best way to cut down on anxiety is to decrease the amount of available fuel!

Going for a long walk, bike ride, or other adventure during the day is not only going to help the dog during the night, but honestly, what better way to celebrate anything other than going on an adventure with your dog?  Something people fail to realize is the importance of exploration with your dog.  I have a Malinois that I handle and train (follow me on Instagram @kdmathews to see TONS of videos on her and I training).  For those that don’t know, the Malinois might be one of the most intense and energetic breeds of dog and this girl is no exception.  After taking her for a 4-6 mile bike ride in Florida’s heat she will get home and look at me jumping around as if we just woke up from a nap!  If i take her for a 2 mile walk somewhere she has never been or is unfamiliar with when we get home she chills right out.


Brain Games

Stimulating the mind often times is more taxing than stimulating the body alone.  A short walk in a new place occupies the dog’s brain to the fullest as she is taking in the world around her all while respecting my rules of walking and interacting in public which keeps her brain firing on all cylinders.

Get away from your routine and do something unique to work your dog’s brain in addition to their body.

If getting out and about isn’t really an option for you it’s time to get busy at home.  There are all kinds of training games you can play that will help drain the energy that could possibly fuel some unhealthy anxiety later in the evening.  If you already work on training specific behaviors with your dog daily, then simply add in some extra sessions with increased difficulty before the fireworks start.

Finding games to play that involve your dog having to solve problems or use their brains to participate is key to keeping your dog calmer later in the evening.


One of the benefits of crate training is a crate provides a dog an immense amount of comfort and security.

Having the crate off in a back room or even a bedroom will be of great use once the festivities heat up.  Secure the dog in the crate with a nice meaty shank bone or a black Kong filled with some fresh made liver pate’.  Then place a radio, TV, or even a fan next to or near the crate.

Use the sound from something right next to the dog to create a constant sound-cloud the dog can be immersed in to decrease the effect of the powerful climaxes of explosions breaking the would-be silence.


After doing all you can to drain the dog’s energy before the fireworks start, then creating a calm secure place for the dog to hunker down for the night, all that remains is some preventative security.  For those who have dogs that are going to FREAK out, make sure that windows, doors, yard gates, etc are totally secure.

Don’t forget about your dog.  Remember that all the planning you did and preparation is not going to eliminate the source of stress and anxiety, but hopefully decrease the dog’s response to it.  The only thing that could make all of this worse is for your dog to get out of the yard where dangers far worse are waiting.



Time To Celebrate The Nation’s Birthday

Once you have everything in order, you have a plan for draining your dog’ energy, and you have them safe and secure for the fireworks, its time to remember what this day is all about.  Paper plates full of deliciously bad for you hot dogs smothered in kraut and mustards of varying spiciness, macaroni salads in all their splendor, and plenty of cheap lager beer should be consumed in mass quantities.

While you enjoy the festivities, food, and family, don’t forget the furry ones.  For those whose dogs are oblivious to the sounds be sure to keep them out of the garbage and from raiding too many un-eaten plates as those hazards will be plentiful as well.  

And make sure Fido doesn’t go for any beer runs after drinking.

God Bless The United States of America!




feature photo credit


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