Managing your dog’s seasonal fears through fireworks and thunderstorms

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — While summertime’s thunderstorms and fireworks on 4th of July can instill fear in dogs, our dogs can be trained to manage their reactions and feel calmer through all the noise and bright flashes.

Joining us Saturday on Good Morning Connecticut, dog training experts Richard and Vicki Horowitz from Barkbusters shares how to manage your dog’s seasonal fears to keep our dog’s safe and happy.

The loud noises can cause many dogs to panic, run away, become destructive, or even hurt themselves. Dogs can sense a storm’s approach by the rapidly falling barometric pressure, and so can begin to show signs of anxiety even before the storm can be heard.  With regard to fireworks, a dog’s sense of hearing is acute—over 10 times more sensitive than humans’ so they can hear the sounds off  in the distance.

Click on the video above to watch the full interview and see News 8’s Stephanie Simoni and Richard and Vicki Horowitz discuss the many points listed below:

What preparations need to be done to help minimize our dog’s fears of thunderstorms?

  • Always keep proper identification securely fastened to your dog’s collar in case your dog gets out. Be sure to keep it up to date.
  • Give your dog a safe place to stay during storms. Create a quiet den-like area where your dog can feel secure. A crate or kennel can be a calming refuge.
  • If your dog lives outside, cover his doghouse or dog run with a blanket to shield him from the bursts of lightning.
  • Dogs can pick up fear or discomfort with storms from their owners.  Let your dog stay close and try to distract him with activities like play or brushing. Do not try to reassure him in a sympathetic voice—this will sound like praise and may increase his nervousness and anxiety.
  • Some dogs become destructive when frightened. A crate or confined area is always the best way to keep your dog safe and minimize any destructive behavior
  • During a storm, keep windows and curtains closed to reduce noise and bright flashes. Turn on a TV or radio playing soft music at normal volume to distract your dog and help him to relax.
  • Keep your dog away from doors that lead outside. This will minimize the chance of your dog getting out should he look to escape.
  • If your dog is very anxious, it may become incontinent. Be prepared and don’t react in a negative manner.
  • Dogs that are fearful of thunderstorms may have to be reconditioned by creating an artificial storm using YouTube videos or storm sounds.
  • In the most extreme cases, speak with your veterinarian about possible medication treatments to help your dog cope with his fear of storms.

Some people set off fireworks even before the 4th of July celebration.  What can we do to keep our dogs safe and happy?

  • Many of the same suggestions we discussed for thunderstorms are also relevant when it comes to fireworks.  But there are some additional considerations.
  • If you are going to the fireworks, leave your dog at home.  This is where he will be the safest and most comfortable.
  • Never leave your dog in the car. A partially opened window does not supply sufficient fresh air for him to breathe, and it creates an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.
  • If possible, stay with your pet during the majority of the fireworks. A dog often reacts more intensely to loud sounds and flashes of lights when you are not with him.
  • Consider hiring a pet sitter to stay with your dog while you are away from home.

Your dog’s phobia about thunderstorms and fireworks won’t get better on its own. Help him learn that “it’s just noise” and is nothing for him to worry about. When he learns to relax and remain calm, you can relax and not worry about your dog during these “fears of the season.”

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