DesensitizeTo work on desensitizing your dog to loud claps of thunder and the pop and sizzle of fireworks, play a CD with recorded outdoor noises like Suburban Thunder. Play it low and quiet at first while pairing it with a happy, exciting activity for your dog like playing fetch or feeding time. Keep coinciding these events and eventually play the recording louder when you notice your pet making progress. If your canine becomes scared at any point, lower the volume. Be very patient and keep up with this routine until your dog grows accustomed to the noise and no longer acts fearful. Try not to baby your dog by petting, hugging or sweet-talking him or her. This will only reinforce the behavior, making your dog think it is ok to act scared because they will be comforted.
ThundershirtMany pet owners have found the Thundershirt to be of great help for their fearful dogs. According to the Thundershirt website, "Over 80% of dogs show significant improvement in symptoms when using the Thundershirt." The Thundershirt uses constant, gentle pressure to calm canines. The technique of using pressure as a calming influence has been touted by experts like Dr. Temple Grandin for both animals and humans with autism. The Thundershirt gets wrapped around your dog with soft fabric and Velcro straps, securing them snugly. Read about our own employee's experience with the Thundershirt on the Morris Animal Inn blog.
DistractTurning the volume up on the TV or the radio can help to drown out the outside noise of fireworks or thunder. In fact, a line of CD's called Through a Dog's Ear was developed by pianist Lisa Spector and sound analyst, Joshua Leeds. The CDs play soothing and peaceful piano music with a simple, slow rhythm. Spector came up with the idea after noticing how calm her dog would become when she practiced the piano. Playing this music can help to decrease your dog's anxiety. Discover more about these CDs.
Safe HavenCreate a comforting haven for your dog. If he or she is crate trained, stock the crate with blankets, favorite toys, a Kong stuffed with food and a water bowl. Fill the spot or nook where they like to hang out with their favorite items. Most importantly, make sure your dog is not outside, but safely contained indoors. Dogs can be so frightened of thunder and fireworks that they may run away.
Sometimes a pet's fear is so severe there may be little you can do to ease their anxiety. At this point you might consider discussing the possibility of using anti-anxiety medication for your pooch with your veternarian.