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Helping your dog cope with thunder and fireworks

by Nomi Berger

The arrival of hot weather and national holidays isn’t always a reason for celebration, especially for noise-phobic dogs. For them, hot weather means thunderstorms, and national holidays, like Canada Day, mean fireworks. And that can mean reactions from panting to panic attacks. It may also mean trembling, drooling or whining; pacing or barking; urinating or vomiting.

If you own this type of dog, it means bearing helpless witness to your pet’s extreme fear. Fortunately, there are various ways to deal with your animal’s distress. The first is to defuse the situation before it begins. Play a recording of the sounds of thunder at a low volume for brief intervals, adjusting the volume according to your dog’s responses, repeating this procedure over and over again.

But if a thunderstorm or fireworks display has already started, there are several coping strategies you can try:

* Divert your dog’s attention. Turn on the radio or television, engage in some active games and be generous with the treats.

* Provide your dog with a dark, comfortable place to hide – from a dog crate or the inside of a closet to a folded blanket under the bed. Being tucked away in a small, snug space allows your dog to feel more secure and muffles the noise outside.

* Buy dog-appeasing pheromones (their scent is similar to those released by nursing mother dogs), available in sprays, diffusers and collars.

* Bind a form fitting, fabric wrap or thick, woven shirt tightly around your dog. Both garments are meant to touch certain pressure points in your dog’s body, slowing down the heart, reducing knots of tension and helping to promote relaxation.

* If, however, your pet’s anxieties escalate, there are two remaining alternatives. Working with a qualified dog therapist to learn behavior modification techniques, or talking to your vet to see if a prescription for anti-anxiety medication may help.

But, whichever path you choose, follow it with kindness, patience and love. Think back to the sounds that frightened you as a child, and you’ll know just how your precious pet is feeling.


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