Los Angeles’ July 4 holiday celebrations are expected to be more festive than ever this year, with local residents eager to make up for last year’s calendar. While LA County authorities have reminded the media of local fireworks laws; specifically, that it’s illegal to store, manufacture, sell, use, or handle all forms of fireworks without a valid permit, and have even introduced a fireworks buy back program across Los Angeles to curb illegal celebrations and potential hazards during the holiday weekend.
But for dog owners in Los Angeles, the July 4 weekend raises its own set of concerns. Your four legged family member’s anxiety around fireworks can be crippling, and it’s an evening that requires a unique set of preparations for families who own pets.
Michael Hill is a celebrity dog trainer, and owner of the renowned Los Angeles based business, District Canine LLC. He’s helped pet owners across the globe understand the psychology of dogs, and why they can react so strongly during July 4 celebrations, explaining that it’s totally normal if your dog experiences concerning behavior. “Responses to fireworks can vary from generalized discomfort such as panting, shaking, pacing, whining, and restlessness, to more extreme reactions, like trying to run away, and destroying things in the process,” he explains.
Hill says that dogs’ responses to Los Angeles’ July 4 fireworks can include breaking out of crates or rooms, digging under or climbing over fences, and damaging themselves and their home in the process, and that the physiological reason is their extremely delicate ears, which are much more sensitive that human ears. “They pick up sounds that never even register in our brain,” he says. “For a dog who isn’t used to the decibel level of fireworks, the sudden and intense noise can instigate severely intense anxiety responses.”
So how should you prepare your dogs for July 4 celebrations? Hill says that above all, it’s important to make sure you have a plan ahead of time, and not just react when the fireworks start. “If you think your dog might be sensitive - and particularly if you see them experience anxiety with other stimuli or noises - your veterinarian can provide safe and temporary sedatives to get through the holiday. You can also attempt to prime your dog to be less sensitive to fireworks by playing recordings of fireworks sounds - starting with a volume that doesn’t appear to bother your dog and gradually increasing over time as they appear less anxious.” This is in essence, a desensitization of a response, or allowing your dog to become familiar with the sounds of fireworks, which will make them to more comfortable with this strange stimuli and the holiday more enjoyable for everyone.
If, over the last year, you’ve adopted a new pandemic family member and your dog is experiencing its first July 4, you might want to take extra precautions. “If a dog has never been exposed to fireworks before, it’s usually wise to leave your dog at home in a safe and secure space or with a responsible caretaker while you enjoy fireworks and festivities with friends,” recommends Hill. “Other white noise like tv, music, sound makers etc combined with natural CBD supplements might also help your dog stay relaxed. If they appear unbothered in this type of setting this year, you can consider a more relaxed approach with more involvement in the festivities next year.”
However you and your dog experience the July 4 weekend across Los Angeles, it’s important that you’re mentally prepared to set the tone for your dog, as often, your own state of ease can translate to your dog’s. “If you’re unsure of how your dog might respond, err on the side of confidence (like your bluffing) as sometimes dogs only become concerned about something when they sense their owner stressing. That being said, make sure to have appropriate management tools, like having your dog on the leash, so you can guide your dog through this unique experience.”
Reuben Mourad is an internationally published lifestyle journalist and television host. You can follow him on Instagram @reubenmourad.