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What’s fun for humans can sometimes be pretty bad for the animals around us — including our pets.
If your dog has noise aversion (and about 40 percent of them do), then you know how terrible July 4 fireworks or a booming thunderstorm can be. Not only is it painful, as an owner, to see your dog so scared, the Fourth of July holiday period sees an uptick in lost dogs as pets get frightened and try to run away from the noise.
Keep reading to get some tips to help your canine companion relax and stay safe.
1. Get Him Used To Loud Noises
Cesar Milan, aka The Dog Whisperer, recommends acclimation—getting your dog used to loud noises—as the best way to overcome noise aversion, though he notes that the process could take up to 3-4 months. The trick with acclimation is to play recordings of fireworks or thunderstorms while going about your daily activities with your dog, especially in advance of those he enjoys, like eating or going for a walk. This way, not only will your dog become less sensitive to noise, he’ll start to have a positive association with it.
Even if you start using acclimation today, Milan says it can help, especially in conjunction with tip number two below.
2. Stay Calm
Your pet feeds off of your energy. If your dog starts getting anxious during a fireworks show or thunderstorm, making sure you stay calm and collected can help. Milan points out that no matter what calming tactic you are using with your dog — including medication — if you’re trying to do it while your pup is in a heightened state, it probably won’t work. So, stay calm — there’s a greater likelihood your dog will stay then relaxed as well.
3. Provide A Safe Place
It’s best to keep dogs with noise aversion inside your home with the shades drawn during a fireworks show or thunderstorm. If your dog likes being in a crate, he may feel safe there, or you may find he likes to ride out a storm in a windowless closet or underneath a table. If you are leaving your dog at home alone, giving him a special treat like a rawhide bone or treat-filled Kong can help distract him from noise.
4. Try A Thundershirt
Just as anxious humans can benefit from resting under a weighted blanket, anxious dogs similarly can find comfort from the gentle, constant pressure that a Thundershirt provides. You can get one on Amazon for $30-40, depending on the size of your pup. To Milan’s point, however, it’s good to give the Thundershirt some wear before a fireworks show or thunderstorm hits, and also try to get it on your dog when he’s feeling relaxed before anxiety hits.
Every dog expert out there advises exercise as a good means of combatting noise aversion. A dog that’s tired from a good, long walk or run earlier in the day will have less energy to spend feeling nervous.
If you feel your efforts to help your dog’s noise aversion aren’t getting you anywhere, talk to your vet about getting a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication. Just as anxious humans can take Klonopin or Xanax to calm down from a heightened state, so can dogs. The keys here are to follow your vet’s recommendation, and to be sure to test the pills on your pup long before a storm hits, in case there are any adverse reactions.
7. Prepare For The Worst
If it happens that your dog gets loose during a thunderstorm or fireworks show, make sure he is wearing his ID tags on a collar that won’t easily slip off. If your dog has a chip implanted, even better. This way, if he does take off, you’ll be stacking the odds in your favor that you’ll be able to bring him home safely.