If Fourth of July fireworks or thunderstorms set your dog off you will want to start to address the issue sooner than later. Don’t start to consider this an issue on July 3rd and expect to see any response to an effort to help your dog with this common issue.
Fears and phobias in dogs are among the most common behavior problems seen in veterinary referral practices. Thunder and fireworks are the most common summer nuisances for our canine friends.
Common signs of fear include: panting, pacing, drooling, vocalizing, whining, hiding, destruction. Dogs express their fear by body language – tail down, ears back, lip licking, yawning. Phobias are more persistent and excessive than fear. Phobias will interfere with your dog’s normal function. Fearful situations that persist can become phobias. Phobias don’t have sudden onset but progress in degrees.
There are “desensitizing” techniques to help some dogs with fears but often these techniques don’t help phobias. Phobias may be aided with the use of dog-appeasing pheromones, Thundershirts that provide gentle hugging pressure and Thundercaps that are fabric vision filters. Punishment is never appropriate and will only worsen the situation. You must reinforce a positive environment by comforting your dog but not going over the top so to reinforce the fear. This can be tricky but in general – keep the atmosphere happy and calm. Stay calm and lead by example.
If your dog chooses to hide during loud noises you may give him a safe place that’s quiet and dark. You might try turning on some classical music to drown out the fear evoking sound. Never use a crate unless your dog seeks this area out because it is a comfortable and familiar place. The goal is to allow your dog to feel safe.
Some dogs are less anxious when they have a feline or canine buddy. Treatment of noise phobias includes avoiding or minimizing the sound if possible, using some desensitizing tactics to teach your dog to remain relaxed in the presence of the fearful stimuli. In the end, some dogs need anti-anxiety medication with behavior modification to make the summer less stressful.