Frantic pacing, whining, darting and trying to escape are common behaviors displayed by dogs that have been scared by fireworks or thunder. It might be the dog is just a little nervous or it could be a bundle of nerves with the strong intent of getting away from all that noise. Escaping causes many dogs to get lost, hit by cars or traumatized, but owners can prepare to minimize their dog’s scary experience.
For dogs, it must seem like suddenly they are in a war zone, with unexplained loud noises and chaos. Even if the noise is miles away, a dog’s astute hearing picks it up. The dog’s fearful reaction can come as a surprise, as one year the dog will be fine, but the next it will be terrified. To avoid the trauma of a lost or dead dog double check to make sure the dog cannot escape from the home environment, use supplements and an anxiety wrap or Thunder Shirt to minimize the dog’s fear and be proactive with specialty training designed to change your dog’s emotions.
Training to minimize the dog’s fear can begin anytime of year but the more time you have to work on the issue before all the scary noises start the better off you will be. This training requires using desensitization, counter conditioning and classical condition to change your dog’s emotions. If you have not initiated this training well before the season in which you expect these noises, you can still make things easier with supplements and by not rewarding your dogs fear during the scary event.
Supplements that have a calming effect can be used to mentally and physically relax a sound phobic dog at times in which there may be scary sounds. Tranquility Blend is an herbal supplement manufactured for pets by Veterinary Herbalist Gregory Tilford. Tranquility blend aids in reducing the physical symptoms displayed by a dog through the use of herbs that promote relaxation. These herbs are not strong enough to cause drowsiness or stumbling. They just help take the edge off. Tranquility Blend is ideally given to a dog half an hour before a scary event. One dose will last about 4 hours. Other supplements an owner may want to consider are Bach flower essences. Dr. Bach discovered these essences while helping his human clients cope with emotions. The flower essences most likely to help your sound sensitive dog are Beech, Rescue Remedy and Mimulas. Flower essences can be given as often as necessary and do not need to be given before hand. These supplements can be very effective, but as with all over the counter supplements care needs to be given. Before using any supplement check with a veterinarian who understand their use.
Supplements are not your only option. You can choose to have your dog wear an anxiety wrap. This product puts pressure on the dog’s body stimulating the sympathetic nervous which aids in calming the dog.
In addition to supplements and using an anxiety wrap, check the security of doors, gates and fences. Check for rotting wood or holes in the fence, gaps between the fence and the ground and make sure latches on gates and doors are in good working order. A scared dog that is desperate to get away from a scary sound will take advantage of any weakness in fences, gates or doors. Most people choose to have the dog inside with doors and windows closed when there may be scary sounds. A room that does not have an exterior wall is best. Having a fan and TV or radio playing will provide white noise to mask the scary sounds.
So the big event is here and your dog is scared, what do you do? The owner needs to be very careful they do not accidentally reinforce the dog’s fear. The biggest mistake made by owners of sound phobic dogs is the owner tries to comfort the dog, but ends up in showing the dog that they are upset also. Petting the dog, telling the dog “its ok” or cuddling the dog is not going to help and can do a great deal of damage when the dog is scared. Firmly holding while remaining calm or happy or ignoring a scared dog is a much better approach. If the dog is not too terribly upset the owner could also try laughing. That’s right a good old fashion belly-jiggling laugh. The only difficulty is the owner’s emotions have to be genuinely joyful. The dog will know if the owner is faking it. So find a really hilarious movie and have a good time. Regardless of how difficult it may be to ignore or laugh to help a scared dog it will have a more desirable outcome then trying to comfort the dog.
You don’t have too loose your dog due to scary sounds. Be proactive by checking the environment, administering supplements and being ready to support your dog at this scary time.