Does your dog pant, hide, bark, try to escape, or get destructive during thunderstorms or fireworks? Well they are not alone – these behaviours are relatively common in dogs experiencing anxiety or noise phobias. This level of stress can have a major impact on your dog’s overall health, comfort and safety.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage and decrease the severity of anxious signs. For young puppies, gradually exposing them to loud noises in a controlled environment can help desensitize them, making it easier in the future when storms or fireworks come about. This could involve playing recordings of noises or fireworks in the background whilst you are playing with your animal. Rewarding calm behaviour with toys or treats can help enforce the learning process.
The provision of a “safe space”, away from windows and doors, can help your dog feel secure. This could include a quiet room in the house with toys, food and water, which helps your dog associate the room with a positive experience.
For older animals, additional support is likely to be required to manage anxiety. If you are concerned about your pet’s ability to cope, speak to your veterinarian before you start any noise treatment or prevention plans.
Written by William Douglas - Final Year Veterinary Student, The University of Sydney.