Here in Montana, thunder and firework season are one in the same. There seems to be little to no reprieve for our sound sensitive dogs from June through late July.
My recommended protocol for dogs that are trying to crawl out of their own skin during this season is a layered approach, and easy enough to implement, even in the busiest of households. The environment has to be slightly tweaked in order for relaxation and calm to happen. Is this a cure? No. But what you will see over time is a dog that learns how to self sooth when they start to feel anxious due to sound.
Note – some people head to their veterinarian for pharmaceuticals to sedate their dog. Be very careful, ask a lot of questions and know what you are doing. There are some drugs, that while they sedate, they do cause more harm in the long run. Please watch Dr. Karen Overall’s VIDEO regarding acepromazine and sound sensitivity.
Note – behavior modification has proven to be effective in desensitizing and counter conditioning dogs to sound phobias, yay! But there are unknowns that cannot be controlled by the trainer; owner compliance, genetics, early experience, socialization, and management of household. I have personally found that most households are unwilling and/or unable to follow a strict modification protocol.
Before the next storm or evening of fireworks, start working in this area with your dog. Sit in there and hand feed dinner, play some tug, watch a movie in that space, etc. Put a positive emotional response on the space BEFORE the big noises happen again.
- Create a space where there is no natural light – under a work desk, half of a closet, laundry room, interior bathroom, etc.
- Put a crate, small bed, or pillow in this area (have it there, don’t wait for the noise). Use what is most familiar and comfortable for your dog.
- Use calming scents in the area. Our COMFORT Aroma Mist was designed for this use. Lavender, Chamomile and Sweet Orange. Mist bedding lightly and a bit of the room. This blend encourages deep restorative breathing, while keeping the mood lifted.
- Turn on a small room fan. White noise is awesome for calming.
- Turn on calming sounds. Not the radio though as it can be loud and booming at times. Through A Dogs Ears is a great example of calm music for dogs.
- Thunder Shirt or snuggle shirt. This is a must and usually what people forget to use.
When your dog starts to show the early signs of anxiety or stress, this layered effect needs to be put into action. Sit in the same room for awhile with your dog, read a book or magazine. Knit me a hat while your at it! But be there for them, especially if you are their comfort, just don’t fall apart with them.
Be safe, be calm, and give your dog the gift of a deep breath!