Is your dog afraid of loud noises? Do they struggle to stay calm while fireworks are going off? It’s a sad and lonely feeling, watching your dog struggle with fears that you have no control over. Fears of noises can be especially difficult to know how to help with. You can’t ask the weather to stop thunder storming, people and towns are going to set off fireworks, and gunshots are an everyday occurrence living out in our state of New Hampshire. These things and other loud noises are out of our hands. We also can’t explain to our dogs that have anxiety caused by noises, that these things can’t hurt them, and that they are perfectly safe inside your home. So often we just do what we can to help our dogs get through these scary times, but many of us feel lost and don’t know what will help. Below are 5 tips to help your scared dog get through these difficult times.
Creating the Proper Environment.
Setting your dog up with places to hide, and familiar and comfortable smells can be really helpful. If your dog wants to hide, always let them. No harm can be done by allowing them to try to escape. We can even set spaces up to help the hiding be more effective, safe, and comfortable. Think about spaces in your house that are the furthest away from windows. That is where most of the sound comes from after all. Set up a nook in the center of your house using a crate and some clothing that smells like their humans. If they hide in the bathroom, set up some blankets in the tub and put on some soothing music on high. Try to think of what will make your dog the most comfortable in this upsetting time and help them by providing that space for them.
Comfort your dog!
It is an old misconception that comforting your dog while they are scared will make their fears worse. If they seek your attention, calmly pat, massage or just be nearby. Keep your voice calm and neutral. Avoid using an excited or overly concerned tone when you speak. Speak to them as if things were normal, provide them with the contact they ask for but avoid pressing them with the attention you desire to give. Some dogs prefer to be ignored and left alone when they are in that state and that is okay too! Listen to your dog and provide them with what helps them feel the most comfortable.
The Right Tools.
Noise phobias are extremely common in the dog world. That means there has been a lot of research and development for things that can be helpful for dogs experiencing this. Now there is no such thing as a one size fits all cure. What works well for Fido, might not work for Fluffy. Some of the most popular and most widely useful products are the Thundershirt, which provides tight, constant pressure which is naturally calming to most living creatures, Mutt Muffs, which are ear muffs that help dampen outside noises and the Calming Cap, which works somewhere in between, helping to block out some noise and providing gentle pressure to the wearer. It is important to try these things before there is anything to be scared of. You don’t want to introduce something that was always going to be scary to your dog that is already going through something quite scary.
If your dog’s behavior is severe, medication may be the best thing for them moving forward. There are many different avenues available to take here. Some things promise miracle cures with little to no evidence to back that up, while some have strong studies behind them. It is important to remember here that there is no one size fits all solution. Take time to talk to an expert like your veterinarian, or a Certified veterinary behaviorist. If you need a place to start, check out this article on How to calm a stressed dog.
Distract your dog by occupying their mind.
This won’t work for every dog, but if your dog’s phobia isn’t too intense, engage them in some toy play. Have a fun training session. Work on some new tricks. Set up some busy toys and treat balls for them to have fun with. If you need some inspiration, check out this article about DIY Enrichment ideas.
Living with a noise-phobic dog can be a stressful and sad thing at times but there are solutions! If you want to learn more about the techniques described above, along with even more tips and tricks, including a training plan to help your dog get over these fears, check out our upcoming Noise Phobia class. This class will include detailed plans for when noise events occur, we will give you a step-by-step guide to helping your dog feel more comfortable about loud sounds, and we will have a conversation about the role medication can play in helping with this training with Dr. Shannon Emmons, Owner of Elliott Veterinary Hospital and so much more. We will be there to help guide you through your journey, give tips and answer questions in our private community. We will be releasing more information on the course throughout the month. For now, sign up for our waitlist by clicking here.