The Ultimate Guide to Fourth of July With Your Dog—How to Stay Safe While Having Fun
It's that time of year again. Time to haul out the stars-and-stripes apparel, grab the sunscreen (and maybe an adult beverage), and head outdoors to soak in the fun. Picnics, BBQs, fireworks, and parades, the July Fourth weekend really offers it all—for us and our dogs.
Yet while Independence Day is a great source of joy, there are some precautions you should take to make sure your dog stays safe while still having the absolute best time.
Fireworks: Keeping Your Dog Comfortable, Safe, and Calm
The Fourth of July is a beloved holiday for many, but your doggo may not be on board with some festivities. Fireworks, namely. Dogs have evolved to possess amazing hearing, and they're super sensitive to sounds, so loud noises like fireworks and marching bands may ignite terror.
Brandi Hunter Munden, vice president of public relations and communications with the American Kennel Club, says fireworks and most dogs are a no-go. She advises that if fireworks are nearby, put your dog in a room that is fairly quiet with their favorite toy.
"Do your best to keep them away from the noise," she says. "This creates a safe space for them. You can also try using music to drown out the sound."
The safe space is important because you don't want your dog running off out of fear. We don't know exactly how many dogs go missing on the Fourth of July, but animal control offices countrywide have claimed the number of missing pets increases by 30 percent on July Fourth.
In a news release, Best Friends Animal Society says you should have a plan in place in case your pooch goes MIA. "That includes calling and visiting the local shelter and posting information about your missing pet on platforms such as Nextdoor and Facebook."
Hunter Munden adds that keeping a good photo of your dog handy can also help others locate your lost four-legged friend in the event they go missing. Of course, you'll also want to make sure your dog is microchipped—with updated information—and is wearing identification tags so whoever finds your dog can get them back to you safely.
If you do plan to be outdoors during fireworks, Lori Bierbrier, DVM, senior medical director of ASPCA community medicine, advises accompanying your dog outside and keeping them securely leashed. Ensure your dog's collar, harness, and leash fit properly and aren't chewed, frayed, or damaged in any way. Dogs should never be left unsupervised on the Fourth of July, even in their own fenced yard, she says.
Here are some other ways to keep your dog safe and calm during fireworks shows:
- Close blinds and curtains to block out bright lights
- Keep doors and windows securely shut
- Stay with your dog and comfort them
- Make sure your dog is microchipped or tagged and linked to up-to-date contact info
- Outfit your dog with a GPS tracker
- Keep decorations like tinsel, streamers, glow-jewelry or sticks, and banners out of reach
- Condition your dog with a noise cue and use this skill when loud noises are taking place
- Make sure dogs can't come into contact with firecrackers, sparklers, and oils like gas or lighter fluid
- Try using homeopathic relaxing or calming products
- Try using an anxiety vest or shirt
Fourth of July Food: Good for You, Not So Much for Your Pup
While we all love a good BBQ or picnic, these yummy activities can pose hazards for dogs if they eat or come into contact with something they shouldn't. For example, Bierbrier says if dogs ingest alcohol they could become very intoxicated, weak, or could go into a coma. "Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases," she adds.
Here's what to keep in mind when the picnic begins:
- Keep dogs away from sunscreens, bug spray, citronella, and bug coils.
- Make sure dogs don't have access to raw or overly fatty meat.
- No beer; same goes for anything with onions or garlic.
- Steer your dog away from chocolate, grapes, avocados, and anything with xylitol in it.
- If you're outside, make sure your dog isn't too hot and has enough to drink.
July 4 Outdoor Fun With Your Dog
That's all for the safety lecture. Now we can get to the fun part because this holiday is also an awesome excuse to get outdoors and have some fun with Fido!
Some of our favorite dog-oriented outdoor activities include:
A good sprinkler session is fun for more than just kids. Aside from providing a source of entertainment and excitement, sprinklers also help cool down your pooch on those hot summer days.
Go for a Swim
But if your dog is joining in on the fun, try to stick to natural bodies of water like rivers, lakes, or the ocean. Before you take the plunge, make sure your doggo is a good swimmer. Your dog should also always wear a life jacket when in the water.
Build a Dog House
Summer is the perfect time to build or purchase some sweet outdoor digs for your pooch. Dog houses can provide a safe hangout spot while you're busy gardening, grilling, or whatever else you like to do outdoors. Make sure to keep your pup's new retreat cool using some of these tricks.
Going camping can provide your dog with some serious stimulation and new experiences. But before you venture into the great outdoors for long periods, make sure your dog is microchipped and wearing an ID tag. You may also want to visit the vet before a camping trip to ensure pooch's vaccines are up to date and they have adequate parasite protection.
Get a Dog Pool
If you have young children, a good dog pool may provide double-duty fun. Dog pools offer loads of entertainment, stimulation, and help pooches keep cool in the dog days of summer. Just make sure to always supervise dogs when in or near water sources.
Have What You Need?
Before you head off to enjoy the outdoors, the experts say there are a few things you should have handy.
Hunter Munden says that when you're taking your dog outdoors you should bring an extra leash, extra water with a portable bowl, poop bags, some dog-friendly sunscreen, and, depending on the adventure, a first aid kit.
Here's some other summer essentials and other fun summer things for your pooch:
- Hats and other clothes like shirts to offer sun protection
- Paw balms to soothe rough or dry paws
- Outdoor toys and waterproof toys like KONGs
- Extra food
- Cooling mats, blankets, or vests
- Booties to protect paws from hot surfaces
- Dog-friendly bug sprays
- Dog googles (yes, they exist)
- Healthy, water-packed fruit treats like watermelon, strawberries, or blackberries
- Small portable fans or umbrellas
It's Not Fourth of July Without Some Frozen Treats
For many of us, July 4 is synonymous with frozen treats. But dogs really shouldn't have traditional ice cream because they can't digest lactase, the natural sugar in milk. Normal ice creams are also chock-full of calories, fat, sugar, and may even contain toxic flavoring or ingredients.
But we have the perfect alternatives: some of our favorite frozen summer treat recipes for your pups!