Fireworks and Thunderstorms
Does a flash of lightning or a rumble of thunder cause your dog to quiver like a jelly or pant uncontrollably? Did last October's Bonfire night fireworks prompt him to dribble as though he were teething or to have an accident you've trained him not to have? With the increase in the use of fireworks for celebrations throughout the year from Bonfire night to New Year's Eve, parties and weddings, most dog owners are aware that fireworks and dogs just don't mix!
If any of these scenarios have occurred, or if he shows other signs of stress, you can help your dog deal more comfortably with thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises. Listed below are a few suggestions that might help your pet:
Divert his attention. Sometimes, all a dog needs to overcome his fear is to have his attention diverted elsewhere. If your dog is frightened, get him engaged in a fun game of fetch, give him a food-stuffed toy or bone or get a handful of treats and ask him to perform all his tricks. Make sure you are happy and get excited yourself, it works wonders!
Offer comfort. Many frightened dogs calm down when their owner uses a product with dog appeasing pheromone (DAP). The DAP, which is similar to the pheromone released by mother dogs nursing their puppies, comes in a variety of forms such as a diffuser, a collar and a spray. More information about DAP products is available at www.doggiesolutions.co.uk or from your vet.
Find him a safe place. Some dogs try to find a place to hide away from thunderstorms and fireworks and, if your dog is one, you can help him. Find them a comfortable place to sleep which is small, quiet and dark, such as a cupboard.
Wrap up your dog. Some dogs may respond to a product called the Body Wrap, a form-fitting fabric wrap that applies pressure to various areas of the dog's body. These are available from www.mekuti.co.uk, who say that "body wraps are being used around the world to bring an animals awareness to their body and away from the source of the fear (e.g. thunder, fireworks, lightning, etc.). The sense of security given by the wrap also brings confidence, allowing them to release habitual responses and behavioural patterns, allowing them to observe the world around them and respond rather than react to stimuli". That being said, experts suggest that you acclimatise your dog to the wrap before using it to calm your dog during a storm. Another alternative is to wrap your dog in a tight T-shirt.
Create some background noise. If you're going to be leaving the house to watch a fireworks display or if thunderstorms are in the weather forecast, play competing background noise, such as a radio or TV. Drawing the curtains to hide any lightning or firework flashes is a good idea too.
Act normal. Experts agree that fussing over your stressed dog is not a good idea. The change in your behaviour from normal only makes the dog think there really is something to worry about, experts warn. The best way is to act and behave as if nothing is wrong and interact with your dog in as normal a manner as possible.
Get help. If your efforts don't seem to reduce your dog's stress, seek help. Many dog owners resort to asking their vet for sedatives for a short period of time. However, these can take time to work and, with Bonfire night lasting for the whole of November these days, they may be impractical. For very severe noise anxiety, a vet may refer dogs to a pet behaviour counsellor. After evaluating the dog's behaviour, the pet behaviour counsellor can develop a comprehensive programme to address the dog's thunderstorm, firework or noise anxiety and any other issues he may have.
Edited by Alison Worgan.
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