At some point or another, almost all dog-owners have had to deal with their fearful dog running and hiding under the dining room table during a thunderstorm or firework display. But hide no more. It turns out in many cases, your dog’s fear of loud noises can be resolved.
Why do dogs fear loud noises so much? No one really knows. It could be due to something happening — or not happening — during the first three months of their life. It could also have something to do with genetics. Herding breeds (such as the German Shepherd and Border Collie) seem more prone and therefore may be a little more anxious around loud noises.
Here are some suggestions on keeping your furry friend calm
Create a Safe Soothing Place
Take note of where you dog runs and hides when they’re frightened. Is it in the laundry room? In the bath? Make sure they are able to get to these ‘safe’ areas if they’re scared (i.e. leave your bedroom door open if their safe place happens to be under your bed).
You could alternatively create a ‘safe’ place for them: use a relatively sound-proofed room with no/blacked-out windows. Make the area as cosy as possible, with their bed and favourite toys close by. You can even sit by your pet to comfort them too. And, believe it or not, a noise machine can also help: there are some soothing sounds tailored to dogs that can calm them or can be used as white noise to drown out the background sounds of thunder.
Avoid putting them in crates or other types of confinement during thunderstorms. They will often injure themselves trying to escape.
Invest in a Anxiety Wrap
Like a baby wrap, the Anxiety Wrap helps to soothe fear and anxiety for nervous dogs. It’s a small anti-static vest which applies pressure to certain acupuncture points which has shown to be comforting to dogs.
Distracting your dog with their favourite toys and treats can sometimes help. Try rolling a ball to them to retrieve or playing fetch. Distraction however doesn’t always work – most pets aren’t interested in getting treats or toys when they are scared.”
Try Behaviour Modification
Gradually introducing loud noises into your dog’s life – such as dropping tin cans near them – can help them adjust to loud noises such as fireworks. However, desensitising a dog to a thunderstorm is much more difficult. Most storm phobias can be hard to treat as fear inhibits learning so you may want to consult an animal behaviour specialist.
Remember, just like a young child who’s afraid of something, you should never force your dog to do anything that might scare them. Some people advocate the flooding method (constantly exposing your dog to their fears until they learn to co-exist with it). However, this method is often unsuccessful – in many instances the fear is made worse – and exposing your dog to such high levels of stress is inhumane.
Talk to an Animal-Behaviour Specialist
If your pup is still frightened, an animal behaviourist might be your next step. Since dogs can’t tell us what scares them, the behaviourist will read a dog’s body language to see how they react to certain situations. The behaviourist can also give your family tips on how to make the dog more comfortable in certain situations (guests at the house, postman at the door, and much more).
When all else fails, families should consider consulting a vet to find out if there are any types of medication suitable to their dog to help calm them.