The fourth of July is right around the corner and I have been talking with many of my clients everyday concerning how to handle their dogs that suffer from ligyrophobia (fear of loud noises). Most vets will suggest drugs (of course!… this is a growing problem in our medical community, in my opinion, whether it be human or canine the “quick fix” of drugging is seldom effective and typically an unhealthy habit. But because it is a money maker why would the medical world ever stop it?)
(image: Rachel Cooper)
I will make this short so you can enjoy your holiday with family, friends, fireworks and stuffing your face with a spicy Italian sausage…
1. EXERCISE the hell out of the dog.
2. Start to desensitize the animal to more and more sounds and socialization.
3. Be sure to NEVER CODDLE or touch or comfort the fearful dog (please see my post about Dealing with a fearful dog- it can change your life and save your dog from a life of misery! You would be shocked to see how many dogs suffer with preventable fear and ridiculous phobias because of an enabling owner)
4. Intercept any start to the fearful behavior – meaning: as soon as the dog starts to whine, pace, freeze, bark, circle, run away…etc, etc you need to intercept or interrupt this behavior ASAP. You only have two seconds to do this! And be sure to interrupt the behavior with a clear countenance and energy that disagrees with what the dog is doing. Be firm. Stop excess movement if the dog tries to run or circle. Stop whining by instantly standing up quickly, “get big” and head toward the dog as a warning (remember you have to match the dog’s energy in order to even break through to their attention level and then, if you do get the attention, Calm the dog! Be firm until you get eye contact. Do not let the dog use you as a comfort blankey and constantly touch you. Do Not say and this is a human classic….”It’s Ok.” Fear is never “Ok.”
5. Remain calm and relaxed and actually enjoy the fireworks or whatever other loud noises are going on. The dog should look to you for feedback on how to act not steal all the attention with doggie drama and insanity…remember always ask yourself what would the calm, social, unfearful older dog do? Chances are the calm dog would simply ignore the fearful one.
6. You can play some calming classical music if you want but don’t rely on unnatural solutions like this. You can also try a “thundershirt” they can work for some dogs. You can also try to actually bring them outside during the fireworks and let them see and understand what they are. DO NOT CODDLE.
Stay relaxed and have a Happy Independence Day and a less fearful dog.
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