tips for thunder/firework sound sensitive dogs

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.

  1. Create a space where there is no natural light – under a work desk, half of a closet, laundry room, interior bathroom, etc.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Turn on a small room fan. White noise is awesome for calming.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Stayhound and commented:
    Great tips! The fireworks have already started here, so I’m glad Jake’s is accustomed to the basement.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks Alexis. Fireworks aren’t a one day gig here either, I think it should be official called a ‘season’ since they start selling them two weeks before and a week after…

  2. Kay says:

    Right now I’m just being very careful until the 5th, when it’s illegal to shoot fireworks any more. I don’t understand why Feather is not bothered by thunder but the fireworks bother her alot. And it just started this year. If we happen to be outside and the neighbors shoot them off, she runs to me, which I’m thankful for!! When we’re inside, she is not as bothered, but stays close to where she’s physically touching me. We tried playing ball and doing fun things, but I’ve decided at this point it’s better to just come in and be safe . I LOVE “through a dog’s ear” and use it alot, even for myself 🙂

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Kay, it’s so illegal here too, but they go off about two weeks before and two weeks afterwards… the 4th is like a war zone in town. Yes coming inside is a good thing. If at her young spanky age they are bothering her, then most likely after 4 years or so it will get worse, once her ear drums start to get a bit brittle. You as her comfort is great, and so much better than running away. I would be adding more comfort to the room/s too so as she ages IT’s ALL GOOD! How’s your puppy?

      1. Kay says:

        Twix doesn’t seem to be as sensitive to the fireworks, but she does NOT like them when outdoors. Neither of them would go outside to potty, even at 11pm when most of the BIG boomers were over. During the evening when the majority of the stuff was being shot, all three dogs were in their crates where I knew they felt safe. I had covered the room with “calm” spray reminding me as I sprayed that I need to order more!!!

  3. Nicole says:

    these are awesome!

  4. Kim says:

    Thanks for all the great tips Nancy! It started sounding like a war zone here 2 weeks ago and it will last for at least another full week. I’m in full-on management mode…thundershirts, frozen stuffed kongs, crates/beds in their “happy place”, Through a Dogs Ear playing non-stop, and me reading a book or knitting through it all. I don’t get much done at night this time of year! I can finally go to bed (it’s 1am!) since the last of the fireworks (tonight at least) seem to be over…Phew! Next year I’ll have fully integrated some of your calming scents into my “war zone plan” too 🙂

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Kim, you always make me smile! We may have to gift each other our knitted hats at some point!

  5. And when all that fails to help because nothing works against the noise of the mortar-like bombs and tree-root exploding devices my neighbor uses…rent a forest service cabin for 5 days around July 4th. For $30 a night my dog and I can be away from New Beirut.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      ah, those super special kind of neighbors! lucky you…

  6. Nikki S. says:

    Love the picture – when I lived on a ranch and it thundered (or other loud noises) all of the ranch dogs (3 shepherds, a small mix dog and mine) would move into my 600 sq ft house. Their favorite spot was in the back of the closet where I stored my nice clothes and shoes. 🙂 We worked it out in the end. Thanks for reminding people.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Nikki, closets are the best inventions!

  7. I have been using the COMFORT mist, along with frozen kongs, safe room, etc. it has all helped-not cured-but definitely improved!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      awesome, I hope you are getting some peace and quiet now… I am hoping we can sleep with windows open tonight.

  8. Trina says:

    I spoke to you on the phone a couple of days ago. Thanks so much for your advice. As, (pronounced Os), has been out-of-sorts for a couple of days and I’m assuming its the change in air pressure. He’s sticking pretty close to me, but also heading down to the basement where he feels safe. I have a fan and running and put the “Moodscapes” channel on tv. All seems to help, in addition to the Calming spray. Thanks again!

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