July 1st, 2014
Fireworks Fear – Helping Your Dog Cope with Noise Phobias
Is your dog afraid of fireworks and other loud noises?
Does he begin to pace, pant, drool, or want to hide in the closet the moment there’s a hint of a storm brewing?
Experts don’t know why dogs develop noise phobias, but they say it’s real, and shouldn’t be ignored.
In anticipation of 4th of July fireworks in a couple of days, and summertime thunderstorms back in full swing, what can you do to help reduce your dog’s anxiety if he suffers from noise phobias? Here are some suggestions.
- Give your dog a safe place where he can go during any scary noise event. This could be an open crate (away from windows or doors), a bathtub, or an interior room. Let your dog decide, and give free access to the place he chooses. If possible, play calm music in that room.
- Don’t cuddle or reassure your dog during a thunderstorm because it will only reinforce the fearful behavior. Likewise, don’t punish him either. Just be calm.
- Practice calm behavior and teach your dog to settle on command. Do this when there isn’t any noise, and reward his calm behavior when there is noise.
- Find a fun game your dog likes to play indoors. Play that game during the fireworks to take his mind off them. You can also work on reinforcing his commands (sit, down, etc.) and rewarding him appropriately to take his mind off the noise.
- Try a snug fitting shirt such as a Thundershirt. Anecdotal evidence suggests these shirts have a calming effect on dogs, similar to cuddling a baby.
- Consider a calming collar (collars filled with herbs that soothe the dog), or other types of aromatherapy. If you would like further information on these products, please contact us.
- Consult a holistic veterinarian about homeopathic, herbs, Bach Flower, and other natural remedies to relieve your dog’s stress.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise, high energy, if possible. Studies indicate that high energy exercise relieves stress and produces serotonin, which helps to reduce the fear response.
- Make sure your dog has proper identification just in case he gets out.
- If the stress is severe, consult with an animal behaviorist. You can find one through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. A behaviorist can help establish a desensitization or conditioning program.
Because noise phobias can often become worse over time, it’s important to take action when you first begin to notice symptoms.
If you don’t, it will become a serious problem that will adversely affect your dog’s quality of life. With regular work with your dog, you can improve this condition, and have a happier, healthier dog in return.