Noise phobia and your dog~By Jessica
Imagine you’re relaxing in you’re recliner and all of sudden you hear a loud “boom!”… followed by several more! It would startle you right? Imagine that you also have extremely sensitive hearing that makes noises seem much louder to them. Our four legged friends can’t always comprehend what is creating some of the noises they hear. They don’t understand . It’s probably very confusing to our pets and although some pets seem to breeze right through the fireworks, thunderstorms, and construction sound with no issues, other pets may respond with symptoms of anxiety. Having a dog with noise anxiety can be a very challenging battle for both you and your pet. So how can we help them cope?
For puppies, their prime socialization period(when they develop many of their habits) is between 8-12 weeks of age. A puppy properly exposed to louder sounds and rewarded for a calm response is less likely to exhibit anxiety. This is when they are starting to discover things and learn how to react to certain things. I got my dog, Sam, in August so by the time the first “ firework holiday” came around she was already past this socialization period. We had some friends over and Sam was hanging out outside with us. As soon as it got dark, we decided to shoot some fireworks.
It didn’t even cross our minds how Sam would react. At some point during our fun Sam darted off for shelter. I’m sure she felt as if the whole sky was about to fall on top of her! We searched and searched and finally found her hiding in the woods behind the house. She was still terrified and unsure if it was safe to come out!
Ever since then, she is scared of thunder and fireworks. She will seek shelter in the smallest places when she hears it: hiding in closets, bathtubs, or under chairs and tables if not underneath our feet. Other dogs can have noise phobia to other things. I’ve come across dogs who have issues with vacuum cleaners, washer and dryers, ice makers, and even loud music. In some cases instead of hiding like my Sam does, dogs can get so anxious and scared that they can injure themselves, destroy furniture, walls or door frames, or pant, pace, or vocalize.
So how do you combat this fear that our fur babies have?! 8 years later, Sam thankfully has continued to just be a hider. My solution is as easy as making sure she’s indoors and has a place that she feels safe in the event of a storm or fireworks. She is also microchipped in case she ever does try to flee a scene again. We typically try to just go about our normal routine; responding to her symptoms would seem like a reward and would encourage her feeling of uncertainty. Luckily, if we aren’t home we know she’ll be hiding herself in a safe spot in our home. With holidays where we expect to see fireworks, she is more of a pacer and a darter and sometimes a medication to help her anxiety and offer some mild sedation helps take the edge off for her. There are many other solutions dependent on your dog’s level of anxiety. Discuss with your veterinarian what solution may work best for your dog.
Some solutions for pets who suffer from noise anxiety may include:
There are training CDs to help you desensitize your pet to the sounds of thunder or fireworks.
The Thundershirt, which is an effective, drug free option, can help to combat anxiety. It applies constant gentle pressure much like swaddling an infant. It’s much less expensive than medications and training and does not require training to use. It has been studied and shown to have over 80% success rate.
There are pheromone products that mock the pheromones a mother releases to calm her pups. There are sprays that can be sprayed on a bandana or shirt that the dog wears, pheromone collars, and plug in diffusers.
Some dogs may benefit from an anti-anxiety medication that can be given in advance of the event.Talk to your vet to see if this is an option for your pet and what medication would be best.
Make sure you’re aware of your pet’s triggers so that you can best prepare for them. Parents of dogs with thunderstorm phobias are the best weather watchers! With the 4th of July approaching, I know there will be fireworks on Monday, so I plan to try a thunder shirt this year instead of medications for Sam. I’ll also make sure she is indoors and that we are home to supervise to make sure she doesn’t injure herself or damage anything in the house! Here’s a list of some other things to do to be prepared for one of the loudest holidays for our pups!
Ways to be prepared for 4th of July:
– make sure you have whatever stress relief product works best for your pet. If you do not currently have one, talk to your vet about the behavior you’ve seen and which method may work best
– If your pet is on medication, make sure you have refilled the medication so it’s available to you
– Keep your pet indoors to avoid the risk of them running away in search of shelter.
– Having your pet microchipped and/or making sure the information is up to date is a good idea.
– Provide your pet with a safe place to seek shelter, for example a crate covered with a blanket
– Try leaving on a TV or radio to cover up some of the noise
– If you are unsure of how your pet will react to fireworks, play it safe and keep them on a leash or indoors.