It’s that time of year here in Upstate New York where fireworks start being lit left and right. It seems every neighbor has invested in them. To top it off, the weather is also not being very cooperative as of late and we’ve had multiple thunder storms.
With July 4th quickly approaching I thought this would be an appropriate time to give some tips on getting your pup through fireworks and thunderstorms.
Many dogs have noise phobias, meaning an extreme fear of loud noises. Common signs of stress during loud noises are drooling, whining, pacing, panting, and hiding. Many dogs start to learn the predictors of thunderstorms and may start to show these signs before the storm even hits.
What can we do about it?
In this blog post I’m going to talk specifically about dogs already showing noise phobias. At the end, I will discuss “prevention” as well, so scroll down if that’s what you’re here for.
Medications gets a bad reputation unfortunately. Much of this stigma comes down to people feeling that they are either doping their dog up or that the medication will somehow change who their dog is. Neither of these are necessarily the case. With a true noise phobic dog, medication should be the first thing you address. Speak with your veterinarian and they will guide you to the right medication for your dog’s anxiety. Remember that this anxiety is tied to an actual phobia. A true phobia isn’t something one can “just get over”. Medication is often a key element. With a dog scared of thunderstorms or fireworks, having meds on board can be a game changer for both you and them.
Manage the Environment
Being prepared is another key element to success in getting your dog through scary storms and fireworks. Perhaps there is a quiet and safe space your pup prefers to relax in? Set that space up for success, provide some great chews or a stuffed Kong. Close all of your windows, turn on the TV and turn it up to hopefully deafen the noises from outside. If your dog loves their crate, sometimes putting a blanket over it can deafen the noise further as well as make your pet feel safer.
A true desensitization protocol can be very helpful for noise fearful dogs. Playing thunderstorm or fireworks noises on Youtube at a very low volume and gradually increasing the volume over time. If your pet shows signs of stress, turn the volume back down. The key is to slowly desensitize your dog to the noise. Letting them get above their comfort level will only result in slowing the process down.
I intentionally have left this for last as this is my preferred method for prevention of noise phobias. It can be helpful for adult dogs with a noise phobia but a true phobia is better fixed through medication, management, and desensitization. So what does counter conditioning in this context look like? Generally it starts with smaller noises. I tap a wooden coffee table with my knuckles lightly, then click or mark yes and deliver a treat. I vary the different noises and their intensity. In theory, the dog is learning “noises aren’t scary, they mean good treats are on the way!”. We want our dogs to form positive associations with a variety of noises from the time they come home.
Hope this helps and gives you a little insight into how to help your dog with the Summer noise this year. Have a question? Drop me an email at email@example.com