New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July are times for celebration, but if you own a dog with a noise phobia, these dates can be very stressful. The inevitable fireworks can have your dog shaking and trembling in fear. Summer thunderstorms can be just as traumatic for him.
What can you do to support your dog through these frightening situations, and teach him not to be afraid?
There’s no quick solution to this problem, but here are some suggestions that may help.
1. Don’t get angry at your dog when he’s scared. It’s not his fault, and this will only make things worse for him. Not only is there a terrifying noise, but the person he relies on for comfort and security is cross at him!
2. Keep your dog safe. If he is an outdoor dog, bring him indoors so he doesn’t break out of your yard trying to get away from the noise. If he’s crate trained, he may be happier in a secure and familiar crate.
3. Keep a bottle of Sleepytime Tonic handy. This pleasant tasting elixir contains a blend of herbs and Bach flower remedies to reduce anxiety and calm your nervous canine. Put a few drops in his mouth, and within only 20 minutes he’ll be more settled. Sleepytime Tonic is safe enough to use every day, and will make life much easier for your anxious dog.
4. Don’t pat or cuddle your dog excessively when he is showing signs of fear. This rewards him for his fearful behavior, so he is more likely to repeat it. Just act normally, stay calm and talk to him in a relaxed tone of voice.
5. The best long term solution to noise phobias is desensitisation. This is basically retraining your dog so he is relaxed during thunderstorms, firework displays or other noisy situations.
The first thing you need to do is train your dog to settle on a mat, and stay calm. You can do this with a clicker or just with food rewards. Teach him a few tricks such as “high five” or “roll over” and practice them until he can do them quickly and with lots of enthusiasm.
Your next step is to purchase a CD of scary noises, and play it softly while you ask your dog to do one of his tricks. Ideally, he should be so keen to do this that he won’t notice the noise. Gradually increase the volume of your CD, but always do it slowly enough so that your dog doesn’t become nervous. The idea behind this training method is that he is happy to perform the familiar behaviors, and isn’t as likely to notice the noise.
This isn’t perfect, because thunderstorms often have changes in the atmosphere that can’t be created by a CD. Also, fireworks have smells that your dog will notice. However, it’s a very good start to helping your dog get over his fears.
Some dogs never learn to cope with loud noises, and all you can hope for is that they are less frightened during a storm or fireworks display. If that’s the case with your dog, then the best that you can offer him is a safe place close to his family where he can’t come to any harm.