Firework Safety and Fear of Noises:
Fourth of July Fireworks Got You Looking for a Fallout Shelter?
by Debra Levey
Okay, the neighbors and friends are planning on celebrating the 4th of July with visions of cookouts, friends, parties, boating,and fireworks. You are checking 1950s city maps for nuclear fallout shelters, trying to become buddies with someone with a soundproof recording studio, or seeking heavy drugs for your dog AND you due to noise phobias. If the phrase "misery likes company" is true, then take heart that many owners share your pain!
Right now, with the noisy event just days away, there really is not time to start training the fears away. Figure out how to decrease the impact this year and then set up a strategy for beginning retraining and desensitization on July 5th. After this event, you can begin to test out different modes of desensitization as well as things like Bach Flower Remedies.
If your dog has severe reactions, such as becoming destructive, foaming/heavily salivating, etc., then the best bet is to either find a place far from where any fireworks are going to be, actually find a soundproof room, or contact your vet about possible medications. Ask the vet for a PRE-dose to try immediately unless you have used them before. Some dogs react in unexpected ways to certain drugs, and during fireworks is not the time to find that out. For these dogs, getting to work on decreasing noise phobias is essential. Below are several links to a variety of ideas.
If your dog's responses are stressed and unhappy but not totally frantic, then often simply limiting the noise may be enough. If your dogs feel safe in their crates, then choose the quietest place in your home, be it the basement or bathtub, and put the crate and dog there for an hour a day until the joyful day arrives. Make it fun by giving lots of yummy treats or toys (but rotate so they aren't bored with them). If you use a wire crate, consider covering it with a heavy blanket or several to deaden the sound. This also helps even with airline-type crates. Put on soothing music, or a white noise machine.
If your dog does not like a crate, then carefully try to think of where in your house the dog can go to feel safe and where you can decrease the noise the most. If there really isn't anywhere, and if you have asked and found that fireworks will be shot off near your house, then perhaps the safest bet is to treat even milder reactions as more severe and find a safe place away from your home to get away from the noises, or talk to your vet about medications.
However, there is one tip that is most important to remember. Many dogs with noise and other phobias, as well as children, are made much worse due to normal, but unhelpful, "comforting" activities. Comforting the dog tells them they have a reason to be afraid, and it very strongly rewards them for their behaviors. Adopt a happy singsong tone and act totally unconcerned. If you are also afraid of loud noises or thunder, try to keep away from the dog so that it is not reading your fears.
Here are some additional resources:
Dog Petrified of Loud Noises - Very good article pointing out some physical problems that might contribute to the fears, as well as confidence building and obedience training as an excellent device to help control the fears.
Melatonin and Noise Fears - An interesting personal experience article on the benefit of Melatonin and reduction of noise phobia, with reference to Dr. Aronson's work on the subject at Tufts University. Other general suggestions, as well.
Fear of Thunder and Loud Noises- Suggestions for dogs that have mild and those with more serious fears and panic with noise and/or thunder phobias.
Loud Noises - An excellent article on severe phobias, how to help train puppies early on not to be afraid, and ideas on desensitizing and coping with a dog who is already phobic.
Fear Of Thunder - Denver Dumb Friends League
A brief and concise list of things to do, things not to do, and explanation of fear of thunder and loud noises.
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