With July 4th right around the corner, even with the current social restrictions, it’s a pretty safe bet that we’ll be hearing fireworks all weekend long. For some, that’s a welcome notion. For others though, especially pet parents whose dogs may fear those fireworks, it’s not so welcome.
Noise phobia in dogs is a real, and sometimes serious, issue. It can be distressing for both pets and their people. So, in preparation for this weekend, we thought we’d tackle some of the best ways to help your pet stay cool, calm, and collected even as those fireworks boom.
Noise Phobia in Dogs
Noise phobia in dogs is an excessive fear of a sound. Fireworks and thunderstorms are the most common, but they’re not the only ones that can be problematic. Sometimes the trigger can be something as simple as loud shouting or even a loud, creaky door. Noise phobia in dogs can develop after a single clap of thunder, or it can develop over a long period of time.
This phobia usually results in the dog attempting to avoid or escape from the sound, either by hiding away or running. We’ve heard many a story of dogs escaping backyards or getting loose just to try and get away from the noise.
But not all dogs will take the escape route or hide away in a closet. Sometimes noise phobia in dogs can be far more subtle, so it’s important to look for cues:
- Excessive drooling
- Chewing/destructive behavior
- Peeing or pooping in the house
- Overly clingy – won’t leave your side
A Fear of Fireworks: Helping your Dog Cope
One of our pups is older, and she has lost most of her hearing. When she was younger, loud noises didn’t bother her at all. Now, however, as a result of the hearing loss, fireworks (and thunderstorms) really bother her. So we’ve had to adapt.
So, what can you do to adapt? What are some of the best ways to help your dog cope with a fear of fireworks, or thunderstorms, or other loud noises?
These are some of the most effective natural remedies available to your pet.
1. Safe Space. Maybe it’s a crate, maybe it’s a closet, maybe it’s a blanket fort. Whatever the case may be, a safe space with your dog’s bed or some cozy blankets and pillows may help relieve those feelings of stress. Try to put the crate or tent in an area that blocks the noise if possible. Many dogs will search out an enclosed place to chill out, so help make that place easy to find. Just remember, these safe spaces should never be forced. If your dog isn’t crate trained, and doesn’t like the crate, never force her into it in these situations!
2. Thundershirt/Anxiety Wraps. Many dogs find pressure soothing, and these types of products offer just that. These types of products offer your pet the same type of comfort as a blanket wrapped around a baby – gentle, constant pressure to calm and soothe. Just remember, not all dogs like it, so don’t force it – that’ll just add to the stress!
3. CBD Oil. A great deal of research has been done of CBD oil for anxiety, in both humans and animals. It works so well because of how it interacts with your dog’s endocannabinoid receptors, signalling to the body to rebalance whatever is in flux. One of the things it does to rebalance, specifically in a case of anxiety, is activate the release of serotonin, a mood stabilizing hormone, to help calm the mind. A dose of CBD just before the fireworks, or at the onset, can really help.
4. Bach Rescue Remedy. Bach flower essences are effective for all types of issues, and that includes fear and nervousness. Rescue Remedy is a combination of several different flower essences all indicated for fear, anxiety, or nervousness. For many dogs (and their owners), a few drops can go a long way to easing those fears. A good idea is to give the dogs before the fireworks start.
5. Exercise. Obviously this is a proactive remedy, as the last thing you want to do is head out for a walk during the fireworks. So, if you anticipate fireworks, Saturday morning for example, head out for a nice hike to tire your pup out. Do some brain games or training exercises outside for a good mental workout. Physical and mental exercise will help keep your pup relaxed when the noises starts.
6. DAP (dog appeasing pheromone). Pheromones are a type of chemical communication between members of a species. Pheromone products mimic natural dog pheromones and can be very calming. You can find these products in diffusers, pump sprays, or even collars. These may help your dog feel more secure and less anxious. If you use a diffuser, plug it in near your pup’s “safe” space.
7. Music. This may sound silly, but many pet parents swear by this. Playing some music can help drown out the sounds that are giving your dog grief. We go with some soothing classical or jazz music, and start low and gradually build up the volume. You can also try MusicMyPet.com or PetMusic.com or look for playlists on YouTube.
8. Homeopathy. There are several different homeopathic remedies that are good for noise phobia in dogs. Try to give a remedy at the first sign of fear. If you see improvement, stop dosing. If, after 20 minutes, you don’t notice a change, try a different remedy. Aconite 30C, Phosphorus 30C, and Aurum Metallicum 30C are all appropriate options.
9. Don’t feed into the phobia. This isn’t technically a remedy, but it’s an important tip! If your dog comes to you for comfort, offer that comfort but try to do so in a way that does not reaffirm their nervousness. Allow them to curl up beside you, but try not to do too much “it’s ok, don’t worry, you’re fine.” Pay attention to your pup and how they react, and change your behaviour if you feel it’s too much.
Likewise, while some might encourage forcing the dog to endure the frightening stimuli as a way to break the noise phobia, this can often be counterproductive. When your dog is already stressed, subjecting them to the stressful situation can often make things worse. In many ways, dogs are like people, and don’t “learn” or process information well when they’re overly stressed. Consider training for noises when your dog is not in a stressed-out state.
When those fireworks start, our girl’s ears go back, and she immediately starts pacing. As soon as this happens, we build her a tent, a safe space for her to hide away, give her some CBD, and turn on some jazz or classical music. And that seems to help. Hopefully this time, adopting a few of these will help your pup too!
Important Note: For some dogs, these above tips work wonders, and will help keep an anxious dog calm until the fireworks stop. That said, some dogs may get so anxious that these have little to no impact. In cases of severe, serious nervousness, when you think the fear is overwhelming for your pup, speak with your veterinarian. While we always try to go the natural route, some dogs may require medication if the situation is TOO stressful for them.
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