Why does my dog panic when there are fireworks? | Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital

Why does my dog panic when there are fireworks?

Matt Young's picture
Mintie in a thundershirt

All dogs get scared by fireworks, that's normal. They are explosions after all! The dogs don't know that they're about to go off so are taken by suprise. Dogs with noise phobia are extremely fearful of loud noises such as fireworks, gunshots & thunderstorms. Sometimes even noises such as the lawn mower, vacuum cleaner or wind can cause a noise phobia.

Dogs with a phobia show signs such as:

  • panting
  • salivating
  • trembling
  • hiding
  • weeing or pooing inside
  • attempting to escape

Even dogs with mild signs of noise phobia should be assessed and treated as it will escalate into a more serious problem as time goes on. Holiday season can be especially stressful for animals with noise phobia as there are often lots of loud noises and activities during celebrations. Every year, fireworks cause dogs to escape and injure themselves.

Here are some things that may help your dog feel more comfortable and help keep your dog safe during the holidays (especially New Years Eve):

Medication

Most dogs with noise phobia will require medications. Medication should always be given in conjunction with a behavioural modification program . The medications used increase serotonin levels in the brain which allows for a more relaxed state of mind. This enables the dog to learn new behaviours in a calm state of mind. Some dogs will also require a stronger medication that can be given before a stressful event.

DAP(Adaptil®)

Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is a synthetic pheromone similar to that produced by lactating bitches to help calm their puppies. It is available in the form of diffuser, spray or collar. It aids in calming a dogs behaviour especially when used in conjunction with other treatments. The collars are especially good for outside dogs with thunderstorm phobias. In the photo below Izzy is wearing a bandana sprayed with adaptil. This is a more cost effective than the collars but only lasts for a few hours.

Bekky's dog Izzy wearing a bandana sprayed with adaptil

Thundershirt®

This is a type of coat for your dog which works by applying gentle, constant pressure around the dogs torso which can have a calming effect. It has been shown to be very effective for many dogs with noise related phobias. We have had a few dogs use them and in general it seems to be very effective. Mintie who is pictured above wears one and and her owner Julie says that it is much more effective if she applies the Thundershirt before Mintie gets stressed.

Desensitization and counter-conditioning

The aim of this is to desensitize the dog to noise. This can be a long process and it is important that small steps are taken and punishment is NEVER given.

CDs can be purchased with a range of potentially scary sounds and used to help desensitize the dog. Use your dogs favourite food or a toy to help you desensitize them these sounds. Feed them treats or play with them whilst having the scary sound at a very low level. Gradually increase the level of sound and the length of time the dog is exposed. If your dog starts to show signs of fear or stress, decrease the sound. Always end the session on a happy note.

It is often helpful to exercise your dog before attempting any training with them as this helps gets rid of any excess energy and can aid in concentration and focus.

Crate training

Crates are a very useful tool. They should be used to create a safe haven for your dog, like a den would be in the wild and never used as a punishment. Metal and wire crates are available and can be made very comfortable.

Crates can help safely contain your dog and avoid damage to your house. Getting your dog used to the crate is very important.

Here a few steps to follow to get your dog to like its crate:

  1. Feed all meals in the crate
  2. Offer treats for going into the crate
  3. Do not lock your dog in the crate initially, but give him/her choice to come in and out

In the photo below you can see how settled and happy my dogs are in their crate:

Zoe's dogs happily settled in their crate

Further help

Should you require further help with the management of your noise phobic dog please call us on 42619838 and to book a detailed behavioural consultation.

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