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Summertime means fireworks and thunderstorms. Two things that can cause your canine family members great fear and stress. It can be heartbreaking watching your normally calm dogs in so much distress – panting and pacing, trying to find a place to hide from the upsetting noises. Dogs can feel it coming even before you do. They are extra sensitive to barometric pressure changes and low-rumbles of thunder that humans can’t hear. Vets call this affliction “storm anxiety” or “noise phobia.” Just like with our human children, pet parents want to do all we can to ease their pain. Here are some tips to help your dog cope with thunderstorms and fireworks noises.Provide a safe place
Pay attention to where your dog goes when a storm hits. This is likely where she feels safest. Typically, this space will be somewhere enclosed. Dogs like caves so small, rooms or under beds or in bathrooms may be where she chooses to go. Make sure she has access to this place all the time. Provide a blanket or soft place for her to lay. Using a fan or radio near her safe place can also help block out the frightening noises.
If she has a crate and feels safe there, give her access to that, but do not lock her in. She must feel free to come and go. Provide treats or food to encourage her to associate this place with positive things. Note that this does not work with every dog. Some need to pace or move around and forcing them into a hiding spot can only make their fear worse.
This works best before your dog is in the midst of her anxiety. If you know a storm is coming or during times of fireworks, start early by turning on a loud radio or TV or white noise machine. Some dogs react positively to soothing music.
Try to engage her in a favorite playtime activity just as she shows signs of being alert to the noise but before she becomes fearful. Play fetch or practice giving her commands and reward her with treats. If the noise becomes too loud and she loses interest in the activity, showing fear, stop the activity. Continuing could only reinforce the fear.
Don’t ever punish a dog for fearful behavior, it will only increase her fear. Forcing her to confront the noises can cause her to become aggressive. Always allow your dog to come and go to their safe place on her own, don’t confine her. Reward calm behavior with praise but never punish fearful behavior. She won’t understand why she is being punished and it will only increase her anxiety.
If these methods don’t work or you are concerned about your dog’s health, talk to your vet. He may suggest medication during times of distress. A vet may also suggest using a Thundershirt or StormDefender cape. The Thundershirt works by providing gentle, constant pressure similar to swaddling an infant. The StormDefender has a special lining that helps reduce the static charge buildup during a thunderstorm that causes your dog to try to escape by hiding in bathtub, the bathroom or under something. Discuss all these methods with your vet to determine what might work best for your dog.
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