Fireworks and thunderstorm related fears are common in the dog. Symptoms of sound related fears include whining, panting, salivation and escape or hiding behaviour. The milder symptoms prompt many owners to attempt self-management. If handled inappropriately these dogs can become complicated via learning and contextualisation then often end up with a generalised anxiety disorder with comorbidities including separation anxiety and aggression.
Pups should be exposed to a wide variety of sounds, people and places through the formative socialisation period [up to 12 months of age]. Attending puppy preschool and junior classes run by a Delta Society accredited behavioural trainer [contact email@example.com] helps owners “learn how dogs learn” and then respond appropriately to their pup’s behaviour.
Predict and Prepare
Apart from NY eve and Queenie’s Birthday, fireworks can be hard to predict. Thunderstorms are far simpler. I use Meteye on the BOM website [on lower banner]. Put in your postcode, click on “storms, snow, fog, frost” and you have a 7 day 3 hourly t-storm predictor.
Pheromone therapy using Adaptil is extremely beneficial. Ideally an Adaptil diffuser is turned on 24 hours before the predicted “event”. Adaptil spray can be used on beds and bandanas but needs airing for 15 mins and only lasts 60-90 minutes.
Noise phobic dogs should have a den or “home cave” that they can escape to which owners should pretrain their dogs to settle in. The space should be dark, quiet and easily accessible even when you are not home. Examples include a bathroom, cupboard, covered crate or under bed/table space. Close windows, switch on adaptil diffuser, leave a radio or TV on and place a bed and blanket to snuggle under.
Noise Event Management
Avoid punishment and reassurance during fireworks or thunderstorms. Reassurance can reinforce or confirm the appropriateness of the fear response, intensify future fear reactions and make the dog reliant on humans as a coping mechanism. Instead if owners are home they should be good “role models”. Act as if not bothered, have a good time, whistle, sing or play a game. We call them “thunderstorm parties”. Monitor your dog surreptitiously and focus on identifying then positively reinforcing recovery from their negative emotional state.
Milton Village Vet offers complete behavioural solutions. Combining veterinary diagnosis with behavioural trainer assisted management.