Noise Anxiety in Dogs

Should I take my dog to Fourth Festivities? 

Did you know more pets go missing around the 4th of July than any other time of the year? Many dogs find fireworks inherently terrifying so they panic and try to escape from their homes or leashes and run away. This is related to the same type of anxiety many dogs have for thunderstorms, and it’s referred to as noise fear or phobia. Both events include not only loud, unpredictable noises, but also flashes of light, potentially strange smells and for thunderstorms there are also changes in air pressure. Some dog behaviorists think that dogs can feel electric shocks in the air during storms. This may explain why many dogs try to hide in bathrooms.

Symptoms of noise anxiety include hiding in enclosed places in the house, such as closets, under beds, or in the tub, barking, whining, pacing, drooling, sweaty paws, trembling, destructive behavior, trying to escape, and maybe even aggression. Depending on the severity of your dog’s noise anxiety, you might want to consider consulting a dog trainer or veterinarian to develop a plan to help your dog overcome their severe anxiety so that they can stay safe.

If your dog has mild to moderate noise anxiety, here are some tips on how to make them feel more comfortable:

  • Give them a safe space and let them hide in it. Let your dog stay home when you go to see fireworks. There is no good reason to bring a dog with you to the fireworks. Bringing them will not help them get over it and will likely make it worse. Plan on exercising your dog before the fireworks or thunderstorm start so that you can let them hide in their safe space during the event, and they will have less energy to spend on destructive behaviors.
  • Drown out the noise with TV, music, a fan, air conditioner, or other white noise. Classical music has been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs. There is also music designed specifically for dogs that could help.
  • Work on desensitizing or counterconditioning your dog to loud noise before they are occurring. You can buy CDs of firework and thunder sounds. Play the sounds softly while doing something highly rewarding with your dog, like feeding them dinner, doing a training session with yummy treats, or playing with them and their favorite toy. Gradually turn up the volume over the next couple training sessions and try to keep it going when the real event occurs.
  • Stay calm. If you are stressing because your dog is stressing, it will only make the situation worse. Don’t be afraid to comfort your dog if they are coming to you for it. You CANNOT reinforce fear. Pet your dog, cuddle them, give a TTouch massage, and tell them they are a good dog. It will help reassure them and make them feel supported.
  • Try out a Thundershirt or other close fitting wrap. Some dogs response really well to this but others may not.
  • Try calming sprays or diffusers.
  • If your dog really has a hard time during fireworks or thunderstorms you can also talk to your vet about calming medication to help them through it.

If your dog has noise anxiety, be sure their tags are up to date and they are microchipped to help increase the chances your are reunited with your furry friend in the event they run away during fireworks or a thunderstorm.