Fear of THUNDER and LIGHTNING or FIREWORKS
Written by Kathy Stewart
SCENARIO - You are out for your routine evening walk with your dog when all of the sudden someone right beside you sets off some fireworks. Your dog freaks out. He just wants to run and hide. You fight to control him and you both end up on the ground. Your dog is screaming, trembling and fighting to get away. Finally a neighbour comes to help you get your dog home. It takes hours before he settles down. What do you do next?
If your pet has recently shown a fear of loud noises or bright lights, you can help. It is the noise, the light and the smell of sulphur (fireworks) that sets your pet off. The trick is to desensitize your pet, the sooner the better. Hopefully, the following information will help you and your pet to cope with the situation.
SIGNS OF DISTRESS may include the following:
- Heavy panting, drooling,
- Whining, crying, screaming, barking,
- Trying to run away,
- Cowering, shaking,
- Looking for a place to hide,
- Not responding when called,
- Dilated pupils,
- Accidents in the house,
- Refusing to eat.
WHY CORRECT THE PROBLEM?
- Fear can cause your animal to run away and get lost
- Fear can cause your animal to run and possibly get struck by a car, which might not only harm your pet but also the people in the car.
- If left untreated this anxiety will likely worsen over time.
PREPARATION IN ADVANCE:
- Make sure your pet is wearing a secure collar and tag with its name, address and phone number in the event it becomes lost. Microchips and tattoos will help to identify lost dogs.
- Contact your local municipality to find out when your area is likely to have fireworks then mark the dates and times on your calendar.
- If you know when the fireworks will begin, take your pet out to relieve itself (in daylight) several hours before that time.
- A long walk will make your pet tired and help to put it in a calmer state.
- Get your pet acclimatized to loud noises before they happen. Trips to the airport or shooting range. Try watching/listening to videos on fireworks.
- Provide your pet with a high carbohydrate meal (potatoes, rice, and pasta) prior to the fireworks. This will help him to be sleepy or calm later in the day.
- Keep the windows and curtains closed.
- Turn on a TV, radio, air conditioner and/or fan to block out some of the noise.
- Leave the lights on so that fireworks or lightning are less apparent.
- Play calming videos/audios, such as the sound of rain fall, to sooth your pet.
- Act like there is nothing to be concerned about. Remain calm and talk calmly to your pet. If not, your pet will read your body language and will think there is reason for concern.
- Create a distraction such as ball throwing, obedience training, playing.
- Give treats for calm behaviour.
- Ignore bad/scared behaviour.
- Give a reassuring pat on the head or a gentle massage, or use Tellington Touch techniques or even just place your hand calmly on the pet's head. Tellington Touch
- Put cotton into your pet's ears to muffle the sound.
- Provide a bowl of water for your pet.
- Provide your pet a safe and comfortable place to stay, rather than let your pet chose a place to hide.
- Allow your pet to be in a room away from the bright light and/or booming noises. A laundry room, when the washer and dryer are on, is great because the vibration and noise of the machines drowns out the noises outside.
- If you pet is used to a crate, encourage it to go in the crate and give it a toy or chew. You can cover the crate with a blanket to keep out light bursts.
- If the dog is freaking out, calmly put the dog in a kennel where he cannot harm himself or cause any damage and continue to ignore him.
- Use a thunder shirt anxiety wrap to calm your pet. For best results be sure to put it on before your pet shows signs of anxiousness. If you don't have one of these you can improvise with a tight fitting child's or adult's stretchy T-shirt. Thundershirt
- If your pet is totally out of control, then you need help from your veterinarian, such as anti-anxiety medication or sedatives.
- Start desensitization training (see below)
- Try herbs and/or medication to calm your pet (see below)
- Take your pet with you to watch the fireworks display.
- Leave your pet outside while there is fireworks or thunder storms.
- Baby or sympathize with the pet. Doing so only reinforces the idea that there is reason to be upset.
- Force your pet to do anything he/she does not want to do. This could cause aggression in your pet.
MEDICATIONS and/or SUPPLIMENTS:
- Meal time. - Feed your pet in a metal bowl. Start by raising the bowl, with a little bit of kibble or treat in it, just off of the floor and drop it, so that it makes a noise. Then encourage your pet to come and eat. As long as the pet comes to eat you can continue to raise the bowl a bit higher before you drop it. This rewards the pet for coming towards loud noises.
- You can try making a noise by banging a pot with a metal spoon and then throwing treats, all the while yelling "hoorah" or some other words of encouragement.
- As mentioned above. Take your pet to the airport where is can hear loud planes landing and taking off.
- Walk towards a firing range, starting at a point where you can hardly hear the sound and stop when your animal is getting alarmed. Try this repeatedly with the goal of getting closer each time.
- Desensitize your pet by:
- Download a desensitizing audio that can be played on your computer or audio system.
- Buy or download this CD Sounds Scary or find videos on YouTube (See list below)
- Play the video or recording of fireworks or thunder storms twice a day, first at a hardly audible volume. While the video/recording is playing reward your dog with play time, cuddle time, games and treats, so that it associates the noise with positive things.
- Increase the volume until your pet notices it, then turn it down one notch and make note of where the knob it. Turn off the video/audio.
- Repeat this every day, increasing the volume slightly and making sure to have fun with your pet while the video is playing.
- Continue doing this until you are able to reach a fairly loud noise without the pet taking notice.
- If you see your pet getting anxious, turn down the volume and proceed with the above at a slower pace than before.
- In the end your pet should associate fireworks or electrical storms with positive things and should not show fearful behaviours.
Ask your vet about:
VIDEOS on YouTube that may help your animal get used to loud noises.
- DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). This is a scent that comes in a plug in diffuser, spray or collar. It helps your pet to remain calm and cope with fears. Start using it a week or two before the fireworks begins. They are sold in many pet stores or online at Amazon.
- Diazepam-type drugs which will cause a short term memory loss which will help keep the fear from escalating the next time. It does not stop your dog from being afraid, however.
- Homeopathic remedies such as Rock rose, Mimulus or Bach Rescue Remedy or Serene-um calm. Spray the scent of Lavender around the room. It has a calming effect.
- Melatonin is an over the counter supplement that has been found to help dogs with sound phobias.
- Help for Dogs Afraid of Thunderstorms or Fireworks
- Thunder Dogs - Dogs Helped by Thundershirt! 1:35 min
- Dog Whisperer Exclusive: Training a Fearful Dog - Watch Cesar Millan demonstrate how to train a fearful dog. 3:42 min.
- Fireworks sounds for dogs, in English and Norwegian. - Suggest that this is played prior to any fireworks days. Whistling and fire cracker sounds - 6:13 min.
- Malta St.Mary Fireworks Factory Mqabba - Music with fireworks, gets louder at end. Goes on for 10:34 min.
- Kumano Huge Fireworks Explosion 900mm Shell - People talking/laughing with 3 loud bangs - 1:17 min
- Homemade Fireworks - Great balls of fire - This might be a good one to start with, because there is music as well as the occasional bang. 1:24 min
- "Fireworks" Big Sound!!! 4th of July in Texas - 5:46 minutes of fireworks photos, bangs, whirring sounds.
- Feux d'artifice Montréal 2012 - Music and fireworks for 10:15 min. - gets very loud.
- Simulated Air raid bangs - sirens, buzzing, then one bang, then pause then bang, and so on for 4:52 seconds.
- Loud Fireworks at Weston Park Model Airshow 2012 - This one goes on for 4:52 min with people talking and constant, loud noise. At the end there is a little kid crying. You might want to stop it at that point.
- LOUD FIREWORKS - This one has a woman laughing which might be helpful. Continuous noise - 5:26 min.
- San Diego Fireworks 2012, LOUD and up close - Very loud and continuous but not a long video. - 0.35 min
- Extremely loud, incredibly close: Best video yet of San Diego's fireworks apocalypse - 35 seconds of very loud fireworks with people laughing at the end.
- Malta Fireworks in Mqabba & Qrendi - This is a good one. It goes on for 8:53 with a bang then a pause, a bang then a pause, without people talking. Music at the end.
- 15 minutes full HD Fireworks show! Zutphen 2-9-2011 - 14:27 minutes of firework pictures and sounds.
- Rolling Thunder and Rain Striking Window (8 hours long!) - Somewhat soothing, with occasional thunder roll. 8 hours long.
- 75 minutes of thunder and rain - relaxing noise for your ears - Audio of thunder and rain - 1 hour 15:22 minutes long.
- Rain and Thunder 10 Hours High Quality - 10 hours of noisy rain and thunder in background.
- 10 Hours Heavy Rainfall with Thunder Ambient Sleep Sounds la lluvia - 10 Hours
- Relaxing 3 Hour Video of California Ocean Waves - Repetitive thundering waves crashing sounds.
- Relaxing Stream with Ducks at Yellowstone (3 hours) - Relaxing if you turn the volume way down. Noisy, repetitive water fall sounds.
- Sunrise Songbirds at Yellowstone (2 hours) - Soothing sounds of birds singing.
- Relaxing Sunrise, Waterfall, and Birds at Grand Canyon - over 2 hours of relaxing sounds.
- Blackbirds chirping - the relaxing sound of chirping birds - 39:45 min. of blackbirds chirping.
- Those Relaxing Sounds of Waves, Ocean Sounds - over 1 hours of Video and Audio of waves breaking on a beach.
- Morning in the forest - over one hour of relaxing forest sounds
- Playlist of relaxing videos
I do hope that this article is useful in helping your pet to realize that there is nothing to fear. If you have tried one or more of the methods above with success, please drop me a note and let me know how it worked for you. I will pass on useful information.
Thanks. Kathy Stewart