Thunderstorms and Fireworks: How to Help a Fearful Dog

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As the first long weekend of the summer approaches, we can’t help but think about thunderstorms and fireworks. For some dogs, these events can be terrifying.  In this blog, we will arm you with a few suggestions that may help your dog relieve some of their mild to moderate fearful reactions to loud, sudden noises.

Desensitization and Puppy Training

Thunderstorms can be unpredictable; as in many situations, being prepared ahead of time may help make a big difference to the reaction of your pet. Our recommendation is to start working on this type of training when your dog is young. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks, it just takes a bit more time and patience on the pet parent’s part. Making loud noises (talking loudly, banging pots, closing doors, anything that makes a loud, abrupt sound) and providing a distraction in the form of toys, treats or praise will help teach them that there is no threat from these sounds. Teaching them to go to their bed versus allowing them to pace when they are nervous will help as well. Have extra yummy treats available and give lots of praise when they act calmly.

Have an Active Day

Sometimes, just making sure they have an overly active day can help counteract the noise from a thunderstorm or fireworks. Long walks, an extended off-leash run, a game of fetch, or even some swimming can all help tucker out your pet. An exhausted dog can be so tired that they really don’t care if there are loud sounds, they just want to sleep. This will also help them down the road as they will learn over time that loud noises are not scary. This is another great way to help start a puppy down the right path to a fear free life.

Thundershirts

Thundershirts are a great option when we are unprepared for an event such as a thunderstorm.  They are quick to put on and can be applied at the last minute. Thundershirts are a snug fitting wrap that mimics swaddling a baby; by applying constant, gentle pressure to your pet’s chest and shoulders it can provide a feeling of security which allows them to relax. There are both dog and cat designs and a variety of sizes to fit any breed of dog. For more information on Thundershirts click HERE

Over the Counter Nutraceuticals

One product that we have found to be helpful with dogs that are fearful in the vet clinic is Adaptil. This same product can be used in your home by using a plug-in diffuser (it works the same way as any wall plug-in for diffusing air freshener). It’s used as an aid in a variety of phobias including thunderstorms and fireworks. Adaptil is specific to canine senses and cannot be detected by people or other pets in the home. It works by mimicking the pheromone that a mother would release to comfort her puppies, which helps your dog feel more confident in their surroundings. To learn more about Adaptil, click HERE

A wide variety of natural calming products can be found in just about any pet store. When looking for a natural product be sure to stay away from human specific items, as dosage amounts can change in addition to the fact that some products that are safe to humans may, in fact, be toxic your pet.

Unfortunately for some, these fears create more than a mild reaction. No matter what we may do to help navigate this nervous behavior there is just no stopping the stress and fear that they feel. For these dogs, a prescribed medication from your veterinarian may be the most helpful option. If you are worried about your pet and would like to arrange a consultation to discuss your dogs fearful, nervous behavior with one of our Veterinarians, click HERE to book an appointment.

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