Happy Fourth of July! Beaches, BBQs Fireworks (and Noise Phobia?)
Happy 4th of July! It's the quintessential American summer weekend.
This fun filled holiday brings family & friends together for classic summer celebration.
While most of us humans love the hoopla that comes with beach weekends, bbqs and fireworks; a majority of our furry family members feel quite the opposite. So, do yourself and your best pooch a favor this weekend by leaving him/her AT HOME if you plan on attending fireworks.
The loud and unpredictable sound of fireworks can often induce fear in our dogs.
This fear is referred to as general noise phobia by dog trainers and behaviorists.
According to Karen Overall, VMD, PhD, ACVB, "Noise phobias are best defined as a persistent, excessive fear response to a sound or escape from the sound [Shull, 1994]."
Studies have shown that noise phobia can gradually worsen over time and a dog will begin to generalize fear to other stimuli. For example, a dog that is fearful of thunderstorms can become fearful of rain alone.
Luna (my own prized pooch) is a victim of noise phobia. This is something we have been working on since she was 16 weeks of age. Needless to say, the unprecedented number of thunderstorms this month have been rough on her. Over the years, her phobia has led her to become fearful of the wind, that predicts the rain, which predicts the thunder! This is a classic pattern of generalization to other stimuli. This weekend's fireworks are the rotten icing on her fear cake this month.
So what's my plan this weekend? Medication, food stuffed toys galore and an Anxiety Wrap (http://www.anxietywrap.com/anxietywrap.htm).
Because this is something we have struggled with for eight years, Luna is medicated during thunderstorms/fireworks. After trying various approaches, I have found that Xanax (generic) is the best medication for her.
Studies have shown that pharmacological medications to be more successful with treating noise phobia than counter conditioning or flooding. The latter two are key components in addressing noise phobia, but medication should be considered if your dog shows a strong and persistent fear.
I plan to off set the fireworks by medicating and treating Luna to fresh burger from the grill dispensed through stuffable toys!
If you are not sure whether or not your dog is fearful of fireworks/thunder, it's best to err on the side of caution.
Here's what to do:
1. Stock your cabinets or your dog's suitcase with a variety of stuffable toys.
We love the kong, busy buddy twist n treat, tricky treat ball and atomic ball.
2. Visit your local pet store or grocery to purchase high quality treats, like Natural Balance Dog Roll, Bully Sticks and deli meat (like chicken, turkey and hamburger).
3. Keep your pup as far from fireworks as possible.
4. Play music or leave the TV on to help drown out the noise.
5. Look up local fireworks schedules so that you are aware of when the noise will begin!
6. BEFORE the fireworks begin, stuff and have your toys ready to go!
7. Withhold your dog's dinner that night to encourage hunger. This will make your food stuffed toy all the more enticing! You may feed your dog the equivalent of his dinner portion through his/her toys. What a holiday treat!
Your goal is to prevent your dog from ever panicking. This means it's wise to give your dog his/her stuffed toy just before/as the fireworks begin. Replenish the toy as necessary throughout the fireworks show.
Do NOT wait until AFTER the fireworks begin to see if your dog will panic.
It's hard for a truly anxious dog to "snap out of it," once the fear begins.
The fireworks are over....phyew!
If your dog showed no signs of fear, excellent! Your pup will thank you for the great toys!
Keep up the good toy stuffing in the years to come!
If your dog showed signs of fear even with the food stuffed toy, this may be an indicator that the noise phobia is strong enough to warrant consideration of medication. Scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss medication possibilities is advisable.
We also have numerous clients who have had success with homeopathic remedies such as; Rescue Remedy, Melatonin, and Pet Calm. These are easily purchased at your local drug store or pet supply store.
This weekend should be enjoyable for all. Surely, if your dog is unhappy, you are unhappy!
So, stuff'm toys and be prepared!
Have fun on the beach, spit a watermelon seed and eat a ear of corn for me!
Happy Fourth of July!