Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Fourth of July Safety for Pets: Tips & Solutions from the Experts

An anxious dog hiding underneath furniture, surrounded by darkness.

Around July 4th and 5th, more pets are reported missing than any other day of the year – largely due to Fourth of July fireworks triggering noise anxiety – a medical condition where loud noises cause fearful & anxious behaviors in pets. Without treatment, noise anxiety can progress to escape attempts and destructive behaviors. 

 To help pet parents prepare for the Fourth of July holiday, we hosted a Facebook Live in June of 2024 with Devon Thomas Treadwell, co-founder of The Retrievers, an organization in Minnesota dedicated to helping families reunite with their missing dogs. During our discussion, Devon shared valuable tips on how to prevent pets from going missing during the Fourth of July holiday, as well as what steps to take if the worst does occur – or if you find someone else’s missing pet! 

 You can watch the Facebook Live replay here to listen to the full, in-depth conversation and view Devon’s informative slideshow, or review a summary of the information below.  

 

Fireworks season is The Retrievers’ busiest time of year. With the Fourth of July approaching, pet parents need to know that fireworks are not fun for dogs. Overall, most dogs are phobic and will bolt during fireworks if they aren’t kept safe.  

The Retrievers are experts on how to prevent your pet from going missing during fireworks, as well as what to do if your pet does escape. Below are some of their best tips to help keep your pets safe the weeks before, during, and after the Fourth of July. 

A veterinarian performing a physical exam on a dog at a veterinary clinic.

Preparing for the Fireworks 

Don’t wait until the Fourth of July to act! Instead, prepare weeks in advance. A few weeks prior to the holiday: 

  • Remember that dogs’ behaviors can change, and fears develop! Don’t assume your dog won’t be afraid of fireworks based on past behavior.  
  • Assume people will be setting off fireworks for at least one week before and after the Fourth of July holiday, even longer in some areas.
  • Talk to your family veterinarian. If you know your dog has noise anxiety, don’t wait until the week of the Fourth of July. Your family veterinarian can discuss and prescribe medications, pheromones, or supplements that may help your dog.
  • Microchip your dog in addition to having ID tags on your dog’s collar. Additionally, make sure your microchip information is up to date. If you have recently moved or changed your number, update your account with the microchip registry.  
  • Don’t let your dog roam off-leash while outside, not even for potty breaks in your yard, during the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July.
    • A four-foot fence is NOT high enough to prevent a panicked dog from jumping over it! Dogs can even scale higher chain link fences because they have a foothold. Don’t assume a fence is a proper barrier for a panicked dog! 
  • Invest in a properly-fitted martingale collar which is designed to safely constrict against your dog’s throat if he tries to pull out of it.
  • Ensure your pet sitter knows how to keep your pet safe if your pet is staying with someone around the Fourth of July holiday.
  • Always update photos of your dog in case you must make a missing dog flyer. Have one photo of your dog’s standing profile and one photo of their face. Make sure the photo’s background is simple and uncluttered. 

A woman sitting on her couch in a dark room watching TV with her dog in her lap.

On the Night of Fourth of July 

Whether or not you usually hear fireworks in your neighborhood, on the Fourth of July, we recommend you: 

  • Leave dogs at home; don’t take them to fireworks displays.  
  • Stay at home with your dog if they have noise anxiety! Your dog looks to you for safety and confidence. Noise-phobic dogs may jump through screens, chew through drywall, or break windows if left alone.
  • Leash your dog during potty breaks – even in a fenced-in yard – and go before dark!
  • Take your dog for a long car ride until the fireworks are over (if your dog enjoys car rides). 
    • In the car, keep your dog tethered and leash them before you let them out of the car. 
  • Tether your dog before you open an exterior door if you are having guests over. You can also use a secondary barrier such as a baby gate or X pen if you have a wide hallway to ensure your dog doesn’t have access to the door as your guests are coming and going. 
  • Use a Thundershirt and/or dog-specific earmuffs to comfort your dog during fireworks. 
  • Give your pet medications, pheromones, supplements, or over-the-counter calming treats as instructed by your family veterinarian. 
  • Create a haven for your pet in an interior room or crate.  
    • Close drapes or lower blinds. 
    • Turn on white noise (a sound machine, fan, TV, music) 
      • Utilize a YouTube channel dedicated to white noise for dogs! 
    • Provide enrichment activities, toys, and treats 
  • Talk to your neighbors, and politely ask them what time they plan to use fireworks. Some people may get defensive, but just simply make the request so everyone can be prepared. 

A missing dog flyer on a tree with a photo of a dog.

Missing Dogs 

In the unfortunate event that your dog goes missing or you discover a lost dog, understand that it’s not realistic to expect to call the dog’s name, they come running, and they’ll jump into your car.  

Instead, lost dogs quickly go into “survival mode.” A dog needs food, water, security, and shelter. When they are separated from their humans, they understand they have lost their resources. What they lose first is that security. Dogs that bolt during loud noises may not eat for days because they are searching for a place where they feel safe again. When in survival mode, they will often run if a human approaches.  

Of course, this reaction varies depending on the dog’s personality. Some dogs may come to you and want to be petted. Other dogs that lack confidence or are fearful and anxious by nature will be much more difficult to catch. Often, reactive dogs or anxious dogs go into survival mode as soon as they’re out of their house or away from their humans. 

Steps to Take 

What happens next depends on the demeanor of your dog and the situation that caused your dog to go missing. Dogs who wander out an open gate and just go sniffing around are much more likely to get into your car if you drive around the neighborhood.  

However, dogs who are shy, fearful, and anxious who leave in a panic due to loud noises (especially ongoing loud noises like fireworks) won’t slow down. They may run for miles!  

So, you can: 

  • Drive around the neighborhood in hopes you can spot your pet. 
  • Post on social media. 
    • Post “Hey if you’re in the northern *city name* area, can you keep an eye out for my dog?” Don’t provide your exact location. 
    • Provide general instructions not to chase or call the dog – just to call you right away. 
    • When you receive tips, go to that location, and attempt these calming signals to initiate catching your dog (or you can use these to try to help catch a lost dog you spot). 
      • Remember: Don’t call, whistle, stare at or run to the dog – even if this is YOUR dog! 
      • Instead, indicate that you’re not a threat: 
        • Sit down and turn your shoulder to the dog. Try to get upwind so your dog can smell you! Keep in mind, if the dog is threatened, they aren’t using their sense of smell until they’re able to calm down. 
        • If you have treats, rattle the treat container. Keep your shoulder turned to the dog, but flick a few treats the dog’s way. If the dog is not in survival mode, they might be interested in treats 
        • Take out your phone and pretend to talk to someone about the dog – but don’t speak directly to the dog. Speak key phrases like “I really wish I had time to take Fido to the dog park” or “I bet Fido would really like a treat! I bet he’s hungry!” Use any words to which your dog responds positively. Again, don’t look at the dog or call out – just wait and let them approach you.  
  • An example of a "Missy Trap" - a live trap designed by The Retrievers, wrapped around a tree to safely capture a missing dog.Utilize The Retrievers 
    • Go to their website and follow their Action Plan 
    • Not everyone is on social media, so they also have yellow “Lost Dog” signs that are highly effective. Watch a flyer tutorial here! 
    • If you’re in one of The Retrievers’ active areas, you can engage with them via the “Request Assistance” button on their website. 
    • Find more tips from The Retrievers here.
  • Spread awareness! Many dogs are caught by the owner, a Good Samaritan, or The Retrievers. Once you start receiving tips, you can chart sightings on Google Maps to determine any patterns. You may want to attempt to catch your dog at these locations.If the situation merits its use, The Retrievers may set up a “Missy Trap.The Retrievers developed this easily configured, adjustable live trap which utilizes a raytripper to close the door once a pet has entered the trap. 

Two kids petting their new dog at an animal shelter.

Dogs + New Situations 

It’s important to know that dogs who have recently undergone a transition in their day-to-day life are at increased risk of running away. Transition events include the following: 

  • Adoption (or at a foster family’s home)
  • Moved into a new home
  • Travel (including camping)
  • Staying with a pet sitter at the pet sitter’s home 

These examples and others like them can cause anxiety for dogs. When this happens, they want to escape whatever is causing their anxiety – so they bolt. About 25% of The Retrievers’ cases involve adopted/foster dogs in the home for up to one month. Of those, about 50% went missing within the first 24 hours. So, when you foster or adopt a dog, it’s important to take extra steps to keep them safe. These may include: 

  • Utilizing barriers in front of exterior doors
  • Keeping the dog on-leash, even in your yard for potty breaks, until they are well-bonded to you. This may take several months.
  • Tethering dogs in the car and leashing before opening the car door
    • Also car-related – locking power windows! Sometimes, a dog will step on the window button, lowering the window so the dog can escape
  • Staying home for two weeks post-your-new-pet’s-arrival on “shutdown” so you can learn more about your dog and keep them safe as they learn to trust you
  • No off-leash dog parks
  • Don’t leave them home alone during fireworks or thunderstorms 

Remember, anxious dogs will do anything to escape, so provide maximum security to keep that dog safe! Find more transition tips here 

A woman closely hugging her small dog.

We hope these tips help keep your pets safe this Fourth of July. Remember to talk to your family veterinarian about any concerns prior to the holiday week. We also recommend reviewing the resources and information on The Retrievers’ website so you’re prepared – just in case! 

If your dog does run away, engage with The Retrievers on their website.  

About The Retrievers 

The Retrievers is a local, volunteer-based organization in Minnesota dedicated to helping families bring their missing dogs home. They started as members of the Lost Dog Rapid Response team for Retriever a Golden of Minnesota (RAGOM) and eventually split off in 2014 to become a nonprofit to assist more rescues and families. 

If you are interested in volunteering with The Retrievers, they are always looking for more recruits! They will provide all training! If you are in Minnesota, especially the Rochester, MN area – they need your help! Learn more about volunteering here! 

If you would like to donate to help The Retrievers with their cause, click here! 

More Reading: 

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet

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