As summer swings into full gear it’s a good time to consider the effects of the booming noise from fireworks and thunderstorms on dogs.
The afternoon rumbling off in the distance confirms the onset of another round of thunderstorms. Some dogs don’t seem to be bothered by them, while others hide, bark, or seek comfort from their owners. As we busily prepare for Canada Day and the Fourth of July celebrations, it’s important to consider that the noise created by fireworks is similar to that of thunderstorms when they roll through.
Fear of loud noises is common in dogs and arises from their natural instinct to survive. When they face a threatening situation (strange sound, animal, or person, etc.), fear is nature’s way of protecting them from harm. The dog’s fear alerts him to potential danger and stimulates a “fight or flight” response to keep him safe by either approaching the danger or fleeing from it.
The problem is that some dogs have an excessive fear of thunderstorms and develop a phobia. These dogs react adversely to the noise but also to the associated lightning, change in barometric pressure, windy conditions, and darkening sky. When thunder-phobic dogs get really scared, they act out.
There are steps you can take to deal with thunderstorm (and fireworks) phobia.
- Provide “white noise” for your dog with a white noise machine or fan, or simply turn on the radio or television.
- Take your dog to the most soundproof area of your home, like your basement or an inner room. Turn on the radio or white noise machine in this room. Provide your dog with his bed and favorite toy and keep a water dish in the room while in there.
- Consider using a dog crate. If your dog enjoys being in his crate, move it to a quiet inner room or cover it with blankets. The blankets will help to block the light show created by lightning and muffle the sound of the storm or fireworks.
- Distract your dog with toys, or treats in a Kong toy to keep him preoccupied.
- Try to desensitize your dog to storms. Instead of following the above steps only when it storms, let your dog experience the “safe room” between storms too.
- Some dogs respond well to “swaddling,” much as newborn babies do. Many dogs feel secure when placed in a weighted dog vest or anti-anxiety wrap – ask your veterinarian about these options.
- Never set fireworks off near your dog – leave him at home.
Don’t let summer thunderstorms and patriotic festivities agitate your dog. Take some time to prepare him for the inevitable “booms” that will happen this summer!