Thunderclaps & Fireworks: Easing Dog Fears
Is your dog scared of July 4th fireworks? Does a rumble of thunder cause your dog to drool, tremble, pant, or prompt him to have a housetraining accident? If these, or any other signs of stress have occurred, read on for tips on how to help your four-legged friend deal more comfortably with loud noises.
Divert his attention. Sometimes, all a dog needs to overcome his fear is to have his attention diverted elsewhere. "If a dog is frightened, get him engaged in a fun game of fetch, give him a phenomenal food-stuffed toy or bone, or get a handful of treats and ask him to perform all his tricks," suggests Dr. Lisa Radosta, a veterinary behaviorist from Royal Palm Beach, Florida. "And get happy and excited yourself. It works wonders."
Offer a mother's comfort. Many fearful dogs calm down when their owner uses a product with dog appeasing pheromone (DAP). The DAP, which is similar to the pheromone released by mother dogs nursing their puppies, "comes in a variety of forms such as a diffuser, a collar and a spray," says Dr. Emily Levine, a veterinary behaviorist in Fairfield, New Jersey. More information about DAP products is available at www.petcomfortzone.com.
Find him a safe place. Some dogs try to find a place to hide away from storms --and if your dog is one, you can help him. "Provide the dog with a small, dark area such as access to a closet if the dog tends to seek those types of places during storms," recommends Dr. Lore Haug, a veterinary behaviorist who practices in Sugar Land, Texas.
Wrap him up. Some dogs may respond to a product called The Anxiety Wrap, a form-fitting fabric wrap that applies pressure to various areas of the dog's body. Use of the wrap may create "biofeedback slowing down the heart and therefore the animal feels less anxious," speculates Levine. "Or the wrap may be hitting certain pressure points that, when firmly touched, helps to calm the animal, much like wrapping a crying baby in a blanket." That being said, other experts suggest that you acclimate your dog to the wrap before using it to calm your dog during a storm.
Introduce some competition. If you're going to be leaving the house to watch a fireworks display -- or if thunderstorms are in the weather forecast -- "play competing background noise such as a radio or TV, or use a white noisemaker," suggests Haug. Drawing the shades to hide any lightning or fireworks is a good idea, too.
Act normal. Experts agree that coddling or attempting to comfort your stressed dog is not a good idea. "The change in the owner's behavior from normal only makes the dog think there really is something to worry about," warns Haug. "The owner should interact with the dog in as normal a manner as possible."
Get help. If your efforts don't seem to reduce your dog's stress, seek help. "Reach out to your veterinarian for anti-anxiety medication," suggests Levine. For very severe or intractable noise anxiety, a veterinarian may refer dog and owner to a veterinary behaviorist -- a veterinarian who has completed post-graduate work in animal behavior. After evaluating the dog's behavior, the veterinary behaviorist can develop a comprehensive program to address the dog's thunderstorm, fireworks or noise anxiety, and any other issues he may have.
More: Read about how to keep your pet safe during July 4th holidays.