New Years Eve is something we all look forward to. The parties, the beginning of a new year and the fireworks! However for some of our canine buddies, fireworks are absolutely terrifying and lead to severe panic attacks. Other common causes of noise phobias are thunderstorms, sirens and gunshots. Reactions of phobic dogs can range from trembling, cowering or whining, to destructive behaviours such as racing around, chewing through walls, gates and other objects, digging and barking. Essentially, destructive behaviour is a manifestation of the dog being terrified and trying to escape what he or she thinks is a life threatening situation.
Treatment of dog noise phobias can be quite a challenge. Like any other phobia, the fear is irrational and it is not easy to rationalize with a dog! It helps to condition pups between 6-14 weeks of age to loud noises, initially at low volumes and then by gradually increasing volume. Adult dogs can be conditioned the same way- the noise should be played at gradually increasing volume and food rewards should be given if the pet stays calm. If the dog starts to panic, you should reduce the volume down to a level where he or she no longer reacts and persist at that volume for a while longer before increasing it again. CD's of thunderstorms or fireworks can be used for conditioning. These exercises should not be done during thunderstorm or fireworks season. Thunderstorms have other components such as scent, humidity and cloud cover that unfortunately cannot be created artificially.
Tools that may assist to keep a dog calm are DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffusers and collars, thunder bands, thunder shirts and calming caps. Anti-anxiety medications such as Reconcile (Prozac), Xanax and clomicalm are often very useful for managing noise phobias. Sedatives, such as acepromazine, may dull the dog's reaction and any destructive behaviour but will do nothing to calm the dog's fears. Oral medications are useful for noises that can be pre-empted such as storms and fireworks, but are tricky to use when it comes to unanticipated noises such as sirens.
Is your dog afraid of noise? What do you do to keep it calm? Share your tips with us in the comments!