Fireworks – and other loud noises – and your Dog
Separation anxiety, fears and phobias abound whenever loud noises, including exploding fireworks, are on the menu. Holidays like the Fourth of July, while delightful for us humans, are generally a source of stress and terror for our canine companions. In addition, natural disasters (e.g. thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes), construction, screaming and anything else that involves loud noises are disconcerting for most dogs. My own Nya used to cower and cry whenever friends got overly enthusiastic and started screaming at a sporting event on the TV. Remember that our canine companions’ hearing is MUCH better than ours so whatever we are hearing is magnified a hundred fold for them. All of these situations can be traumatic and stressful for your canine fur babies so they need your help to deal with the event, including supervision at home where they are most comfortable. As our annual Fourth of July holiday approaches, remember that your dog will NOT enjoy going with you to watch the fireworks. If you are going out, don’t just leave your fur baby home alone to “tough it out” or “deal with it”. Follow the Onpets guidance below to adequately prepare your pup for the fireworks mayhem during your absence.
Methods to Manage Your Pup’s Fear
- Take your dog for a nice long walk and exercise prior to the noisy event so he has the opportunity to eliminate and is more relaxed and fulfilled.
- One of the many – and perhaps easiest way – to acclimate your dog to loud and/or startling sounds is to simply minimize the situation by settling your dog comfortably in an interior room or basement so that he is more isolated from the loud noise and fear-inducing stimulus. You can also try to reduce the noise that reaches the room in a variety of ways:
- Make sure there are no windows in the room where you’ve settled your pup or that your windows and shades are fully closed.
- If you have large openings under the door put a folded towel there to help block out any additional noise.
- Put on soft calming music, preferably loud enough to block out the other sounds. Certain types of classical music are very soothing and there are recordings available specifically geared for canines that can calm your pup’s nerves. During quiet times when there are no loud thunderstorms or fireworks, go through the same routine as you will during an actual noisy event. Get your pup used to going to this room, listing to calming music and receiving his favorite treats so that he associates going into the quiet room with a positive experience.
- Just as you would comfort your child when he is petrified, so should you comfort your pup. Remember, emotions are not reinforceable but behaviors are. By comforting your pup, you are not encouraging your dog to be scared or afraid.
- There are CD’s made specifically for the purpose of desensitizing dogs to loud noises. The sounds of fireworks and loud noises of different pitches, rhythms, tones and tempos are played to acclimate dogs to these sounds at a young age so that loud noises such as a car or truck backfiring, thunder or fireworks won’t startle your pooch.
- Scents and aromatherapy can also calm your dog down. Lavender, chamomile and other calming essential oils help not only humans settle their nerves but canines as well. However, there are some essential oils that are toxic for your pets. Unlike dogs, cats are much more sensitive to some scents and can also develop toxicities. Products that are safe your dog may not be safe for your cat.
- Another holistic option is Rescue Remedy by Bach Flower.
- There are thunder shirts and dog anxiety vests that may make your pooch feel less stressed. These products are used in separation anxiety cases as well. If you use one of these products, make sure to praise your dog with treats and affection, especially when they are calm and relaxed.
- Engage your pup and occupy his mind with dog training (simple behaviors that they know very well) and play. Treat heavily for these simple behaviors to build confidence. Dog training builds confidence and security and is enhanced when you reward your dog with his favorite toy and treat.
- You may also want to try Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.) to help with noise-induced anxiety. One such product is Adaptil, sold as a collar or plug in diffuser. This is a synthetic pheromone that works by releasing pheromones that are released when a mother dogs is lactating, giving the dog a sense of well-being and reassurance.
- Make sure your dog is wearing his collar with ID and has a current and registered microchip. If the worst happens and your dog escapes, this is your best bet at recovering him.
- There is no substitute for a great behavior modification protocol, systematic desensitization and counter conditioning, all of which you can do with a good animal behaviorist or trainer. A sound behavior modification protocol will be a long term solution for noise-induced anxieties.
Before you know it you may turn thunderstorms, fireworks and loud noises into an event your dog enjoys…or at least doesn’t dread.
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