The tradition of celebrating our nation’s independence with brilliant fireworks displays is as old as our nation itself. In fact, the first display of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day was July 4, 1777 on our very first anniversary of becoming a country! Unfortunately, our dogs are not as happy about this long tradition of fireworks as we humans are. In fact, more dogs are lost on July 4 than any other day of the year. If you have a fearful dog, we at RV Pet Safety have some tips for you on how to manage your fearful dog while camping or RVing on Independence Day.
Stay With Your Dog
If your dog is afraid of fireworks at home, chances are she will be afraid of them while in your RV. In fact, even dogs who are not afraid of them in a house or apartment building may be alarmed by the different sound of the fireworks from within your RV unit or camper. Whether you are near the official municipal display or your campground neighbors are setting off their own fireworks, the sound will be louder and have a different tone to it because of the materials from which your RV is built compared to a regular home. Additionally, a dog that has never been afraid of loud noises at home might be afraid of them once in your RV or camper because of the different sounds.
We recommend that your 4th of July plans include your dog, whether it means taking your dog with you wherever you go or staying in your RV or campsite with them. Terrified dogs can break out of crates and tear down walls, doors, and windows in a desperate attempt to find safety from the unknown noises of fireworks. This could cause your dog to be injured or lost in an unfamiliar location. They can also slip out of collars, so make sure you have a secure harness and leash in case your dog struggles to get away.
Muffle the Sound of Fireworks
You can try several options for muffling and hiding the sound of the fireworks in your RV. Turning your air conditioner on, running electric fans, and turning up the volume of your television or stereo can help the noise be less noticeable. You can play regular music or check out some of the recordings that are designed to help dogs experience a feeling of calmness, like this one that we found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joe-ePqCqWc. We do not know if these really work, but we found it calming, so it cannot hurt to try it.
If your dog has a crate in your RV that they enjoy as a haven, drape a heavy blanket, sleeping bag, or comforter over the top and sides of the crate. A moving blanket is ideal but you can use what you have already or can get at a local store. You can also find crate covers specifically designed to reduce sound. If your dog is not usually crated, you can also find tutorials for soundproofing your actual camper or RV unit with acoustic panels.
Create a Feeling of Safety for Your Dog
If your dog does not have a crate in your RV, you can create a comfortable nesting spot in his favorite spot. If your dog wants to hide behind or under furniture or in a remote corner of your RV unit, go ahead and let him. You can put his favorite blanket or toy in that spot or a blanket off of your own bed that smells like you.
If you know that your dog is fearful, you may already have a canine anxiety shirt for storms and fireworks. If you left your dog’s shirt at home or your usually non-fearful dog shows signs of anxiety, you can create your own calming anxiety shirt out of an old t-shirt or an ace bandage from your first aid kit. In this example from The Bark magazine, they have utilized a scarf. If you are traveling in your RV you may need to be creative; just remember that you should always supervise your dog when he is wearing something like this to ensure that he does not become tangled. https://barkpost.com/answers/diy-anxiety-wrap/
Wear Your Dog Out Before Dark
In anticipation of a night full of loud booming noises like fireworks, try to plan a fun day of new activities or vigorous exercise for your dog. You can employ some of the tricks that we shared in our previous blog, Indoor Fun During Inclement Weather to provide mental exercise. If you combine these with a fun excursion like a hike or walk on a new path with new smells, a trip to a dog-friendly store or restaurant, or another dog-friendly activity, your dog will be more likely to sleep through the noise than if you have gone about your regular schedule and routine.
If your dog is awake when your campground neighbors are setting off fireworks, you can also use the games and exercises in that blog to distract your dog and get his focus off of the noise. A stuffed treat dispensing toy or some fun training games can be an excellent way of getting your dog’s mind off of the noises outside your RV unit.
Medical and Holistic Treatments
Although the internet is full of medical advice on traditional medicine and holistic treatments, we recommend working with your veterinarian before trying any of these methods on your actual dog. You can also find dog treats with calming ingredients at most pet stores.
Remain Calm Yourself
Dogs have such powerful noses that your dog can smell changes in your body as a result of your emotions. When you are nervous or stressed, your dog can detect it. The calmer you yourself can remain and not anticipate a stressful night because of a fearful dog, the less your dog will react to your own response to a loud night of fireworks. If you are nervous because it is the first time your dog is experiencing the 4th of July in a camper instead of at home, your dog will pick up on it. The more positive and upbeat you are, the calmer and more relaxed your dog should be, particularly since your dog looks to you as their leader in all new situations.