Some dogs startle easily and become fearful of any loud noises like thunderstorms, fireworks, the vacuum cleaner.
They may exhibit this fear by whining, trembling, hiding, panting or pacing. You can try to condition your dog to ignore loud noises using several methods.
Purchase a CD of loud noises that include the crack of thunder, etc. Begin by playing the CD at a low volume. Increase the level of sound over a period of a week until it plays at full volume. While playing the CD, distract your dog’s attention by playing a favorite game or brushing him. Speak in a gentle but normal voice. Giving your dog treats will help him associate loud nosies with something very enjoyable.
Some dogs will find a hiding place like a closet, under a bed or even their crate. These represent safe places to your dog. Allow him to find comfort this way. When your dog has settled in, sit close by, quietly. If you are calm, not nervous or angry, your dog will, hopefully, pick up on your positive attitude and become more confident.
There are differing opinions on whether to reassure your dog during this traumatic time. I’m of the school that believes showing your dog some love by petting and using a calm, gentle voice soothes more than encourages this behavior.
Holistic remedies are available that calm as well, such as lavender oil and geranium oil. Gently massage your dog while allowing him to get the scent of lavender oil and this may divert his attention. Thunderstorm coats are another soother.
Your vet will have sedatives to use, but since these take time to act, they would have to be administered at least a half hour before an approaching storm or any other noises that you are aware will occur. While they work temporarily, they don’t condition your dog’s behavior.
It is much easier to condition a puppy to ignore loud noises than an older dog who is fearful.
If you’ve tried all and none of the methods work, it may be time to see an animal behaviorist.
Stress in pets should be taken seriously. If your pet suffers from stress, it can lead to medical conditions, upset the balance of the body, just as in humans.
A final note – please keep your dog indoors with you during storms or fireworks displays. If you can’t be present, allow your dog to have a comfortable place where he can feel safe during such stressful times.