For parents of dogs who fear loud, unfamiliar noises, a roaring crack or the terrifying fireworks display in the distance can mean hours of heartbreak and helplessness as they try to comfort our frightened four-legged family member.
If your dog gets nervous, anxious, or panicked during noisy events like thunderstorms or fireworks, there are some steps you can take to help him stay calm.
1. Shower him with love and positive attention. There is a common misconception that if your dog is afraid, paying attention to it will only increase that fear. This is absolutely wrong! In fact, the opposite is true. Your dog depends on you for guidance and instruction.
If you ignore your dog or force him to just deal with his fear, he will not learn anything. Never punish a dog for being scared. This will only make him more anxious.
So, if you know that the loud sound of a thunderstorm or fireworks display is making your pooch anxious, show him the love and affection in a calm, happy way that you are there and protect him. Stroke, cuddle, and massage your dog to keep him calm and satisfied. Eventually, he should begin to associate the scary noises with something good – positive attention and love – and will be less anxious.
2. Play music. Aside from helping to mask the noise of thunder or fireworks, certain types of music have been scientifically proven to calm nervous or anxious dogs. Through a Dog’s Ear is a series of music CDs specifically designed for dogs dealing with a wide variety of fears. (Also works great on dogs with separation anxiety!)
3. Try a thundershirt or a fear wrap. While they can look like a tight-fitting shirt for your dog, scared wraps or thundershirts are designed to apply gentle, even pressure to specific pressure points on the body when properly fitted, which will instantly calm your dog. Dealing with all sorts of fears from their dogs, pet parents swear by the wraps for their ability to provide instant comfort to a frightened puppy. (In a pinch, try this DIY fear pack with a scarf or ace banadage.)
4. Distract your dog’s attention. Pull out some of their favorite toys and play with your pooch. Having a fun playtime will help your dog stay distracted until the source of his fear is gone. Plus, she’ll start associating the scary noises with fun playtime, and over time, she’ll become less anxious.
5. Provide him with a safe haven. If your pooch runs to a certain area in your house every time the thunder breaks, make that place a comfortable place for him. Put his blanket and favorite toys there, ensure a long-lasting favorite chew or pleasure, provide “white noise” such as soft music or a television and let him stay in that place until he finally feels okay . Many dogs find great comfort in a crate or kennel during stressful times.
If your dog is in an anxious state, never force him to do something he is not comfortable with. For example, for another time it would be best if you gave your dog a bath or trimmed their nails. If you associate something he doesn’t like with the thunderstorm or fireworks, that fear is heightened.
Experiment with more than one of these techniques in combination with another. No single method works for every dog, and the ultimate goal is to make your unique pup feel calm and comfortable.
Trying other things
- Desensitization. There are times when it is possible to allay your dog’s anxiety by playing thunderstorm sounds when it’s not a storm outside. Find a CD or download thunderstorm or fireworks sound clips to use. First, play at a low volume while comforting your dog with pleasant stimuli such as petting and treats. Do this for just a few minutes a day for several weeks, slowly increasing the volume until you can play the sounds at their natural level while your dog remains satisfied and calm. Gradual exposure to the source of his fear, combined with pleasant stimuli such as caressing or playing, will eventually lessen Fido’s fear of him it. Fortunately, this technique works very well for many pets.
- Medicines and Natural Therapies. A dog owner is never excited about the need to use drugs to relieve their pooch’s fears. However, keep in mind that in these extreme cases, it may be better for their health and wellbeing to medicate your dog to keep them calm than not treating their condition. Talk to your veterinarian about anxiety medication for your dog. In milder cases, you can try lavender oil or flower extracts to calm your pooch. Many dogs also respond well to specific pheromones collar, Sprays or diffusers to calm anxiety. And others respond very well to CBD oil or treats.
- Animal behaviorist. Even if you find relief using one or more of the methods above, an animal behaviorist may be able to provide additional insight into your fearful dog’s behavior and how best to deal with it. Your veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and even a dog trainer may have specialized training in dealing with this type of dog behavior.
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