Fall is fast approaching. The kids are back to school, the daylight hours are dwindling and some nights we are starting to feel a slight chill in the evening air. While yesterday was Labor Day which symbolizes the end of summer, technically we still have a few weeks left before it is officially fall. In this fifth and final look at summer safety tips we will look at fear of loud noises such as thunderstorms and fireworks, what causes this behavior and how to keep a frightened dog calm.
In dogs with mild to moderate phobias, desensitization has been shown to reduce or alleviate symptoms in some cases. This might involve playing recordings of the feared noises on a daily basis, starting with a lower volume and gradually increasing the sound levels. The recordings may be accompanied by gentle petting to try to get your dog to associate the noise with something pleasant and non-threatening. It may also be helpful to work with your dog in one area of the house which can act as a safe place. That way when a real thunderstorm or noise event occurs you can take your dog to his safe place and give him that extra attention.
It is important when attempting this method to raise the volume of the recordings very gradually and over a period of time. Trying to perform the desensitization procedure too quickly will probably not be successful. Once you notice improvement, desensitization techniques should be reinforced every week or so. In some cases, massaging your dog with lavender oil while listening to the recorded noises can be helpful as part of the desensitization process.
Some of the things you should not do if your dog is afraid are punishing or scolding, or forcing him to face his fears. These approaches will likely make the fears worse. It is also not a good idea to constantly fawn over your dog as this will only feed his anxiety. Instead, reward him when he displays calm, confident behavior.
If you have the option start when your dog is young by exposing him to as many different stimuli as possible. While we never want to see our dogs stressed and fearful, some dogs are just unable to cope. However, as they get older and their hearing becomes less acute they may demonstrate less sensitivity to noise. The good news for many dog owners though is that with time, patience and the right techniques, their dogs can overcome their fears and enjoy healthy and happy lives.