July 4th noise help advice for your dog

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 7/3/11
By: Gail T. Fisher

With July 4th celebrations today or tomorrow, here’s a reminder of some products and ideas that may help your dog deal with loud noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms.

First, use common sense. Don’t bring your dog to fireworks. Even if your dog is fine in crowds and isn’t afraid of loud noise, a fireworks display with the loud boomers is harmful for a dog’s sensitive ears and can create such fear. Plus it’s not as if dogs enjoy seeing fireworks.

Some dogs can injure themselves when they’re frightened, so if you know there will be fireworks in your neighborhood, make sure he’s safe, or if possible, stay home to protect your dog. Here are some other things that may help (with where to find them in parentheses):

  • Oil of lavender (health food stores). Mix a few drops with water and spray around the room, or spray it on your hands and apply it to your dog’s neck, shoulders chest and forelegs. One of my trainers reports that really calms her thunder-phobic dog. And it doesn’t have to be done in advance.
  • A Thundershirt® or Anxiety Wrap® (All Dogs Gym, pet shops, or on-line) is helpful to many dogs. Cannon is calmer wearing a Thundershirt sprayed lightly with Lavender Oil. Don’t put it on in advance, however, as that may actually create an anxious response if the dog learns to associate the wrap with impending noise.
  • Aromadog Chill-Out (pet shops and websites), a blend of chamomile, lavender and marjoram. Spray around the room, or apply some to your dog as with lavender oil.
  • D.A.P. “Comfort Zone™” (pet shops and websites). D.A.P. is “dog appeasement pheromone,” a synthetic equivalent that mimics the smell of a nursing mom to a suckling pup, providing a safe, secure feeling. D.A.P. is sold as a spray, plug-in diffuser, and a collar. Studies (and anecdotal stories) report that it can help lessen a dog’s fear response in a number of anxiety-based circumstances.
  • Melatonin, an over-the-counter hormone (health food stores). Many dog owners report good results, but it has to be given in advance. Veterinarian Linda Aronson, who has researched this subject, recommends three mg. for average to large dogs, six for giant dogs over 100 pounds, and 1.5 mg. for dogs under 30 pounds. Just as with drugs, check with your veterinarian about herb therapies.
  • Bach Rescue Remedy (health food stores). Rescue Remedy comes in both cream and liquid. Just a few drops of the liquid in your dog’s food or water, or directly in your dog’s mouth are all it takes. You can rub the cream on the inside of your dog’s ear flap, if that’s an easier delivery system.
  • Calming CDs (on-line). We’ve been astonished at the calming effects of these CDs on most dogs. The downside is an “earworm” you may get stuck in your head, so you may want to save this for when you’re not home. Classical music may help, too. In the absence of either, play the radio or TV to help mask the noise, especially if the fireworks or storm are in the distance.
  • Drug therapy. I’m not big on drug therapy, but when a dog is in a panic, is destructive or in danger of injuring himself, it’s worth considering. Talk to your veterinarian about Clomicalm™ or Zanac™, and learn about possible side effects, pros and cons. Medication may help, but there are drawbacks.

  • And finally, it is natural to want to comfort and soothe our dogs’ anxiety – to stroke and talk lovingly when they’re upset. Some dogs benefit from physical contact, but it’s important to be calm yourself. Otherwise you could communicate your distress, which reinforces your dog’s anxiety. No matter what, don’t be angry or impatient. Your dog’s behavior is emotional and fear-based, so anger or impatience can only make it worse. The best approach is to relax and demonstrate calmness and unconcern.

    Happy Independence Day!

    Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.alldogsgym.com For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.