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Articles - Noise Phobia

by Caroline Kjall at DogBasics

Fireworks season is nearly upon us and thousands of dogs, cats and other animals will suffer through it. It is not fair, but until there is better legislation for the use of fireworks, we have to try to make our pets as comfortable through it, as we can. Here are some tips on how:

Preparations before the fireworks start

Desensitising. If you have a pet that is frightened of fireworks, thunder or gun fire, don't let it suffer any more. You can help your dog by desensitising it to these noises, using a noise CD (click here to buy a Fireworks, Thunder and Shots CD!). We also suggest you find a local trainer or behaviourist who will use reward based training methods, for help in training with the CD, to get the best result.

Build them up with the right food. Feed your pet a meal rich in carbohydrate with added vitamin B6 mid to late afternoon so his stomach is full over the evening. (if your pet is prone to diarrhoea when frightened, don't change his diet. You might not be able to get him out to the toilet for over 24 hours, in the worst cases). If you need further advice on suitable diets, please contact your local vet.

Create a den. Make a nice cozy den for your dog a few days before the fireworks start, so that he's got somewhere to hide, when he feels anxious. The den should be darkened and have padding. Use a dog crate with soft towels inside and a heavy blanket covering it's top, sides and back. Alternatively put some nice padding down in the alcove under the stairs or kitchen sink. Provide some toys for your pet and something to occupy yourself (whilst you keep her/him company). Be sure that the environment is safe and secure at all times and that the pet cannot escape and bolt with fear.

Make safe noises. Put some music on, preferably something with a loud drumbeat if the pet can tolerate it. It will act as a distraction from the noise outside.

Earplugs. If your vet has suggested that the use of earplugs may be helpful for your dog, use them, BUT make sure you've trained your dog to wear them, before the night of the fireworks. You don't want to end up with a power struggle when your dog is already petrified. Generally the earplugs can be made by taking a piece of cotton wool and dampening it. Roll it into a long thin cylinder and twist into the dog¹s ear to pack the canal. DO NOT DO THIS unless you have been shown the correct method by your vet or vet nurses.

Do's and Dont's...

DO try to behave as normal as possible. If you normally don't pay your dog that much attention, then don't start while the fireworks are on, that just reinforces that something is wrong.

DO something calm and relaxing. Sit down and watch TV with the volume turned up (make sure it hasn't fireworks on the TV!). Read a book with the radio turned up (make sure it hasn't fireworks on the radio!). Cook a meal in the kitchen with the radio turned up. The kitchen is such a positive place for many dogs, with food scraps, fantastic smells, etc. It also gives you an opportunity to do something natural without paying attention to your dog.

DON'T let the vet talk you into giving your dog the strong sedative Acepromazine (ACP, a pre-med sedative). Your dog will still hear the noises, but won't be able to move properly, so the stress will be greater. You are much better off trying the alternative therapies. Bach Rescue Remedy, DAP and Scullcap & Valerian tablets.

DON'Tleave your pet alone when there is a risk of fireworks or other noises he's scared off. One of the cruelest things you can do is to leave your pet to fend for himself. If you can't be there, find a dog sitter out in the countryside, where fireworks displays are unlikely. Home envoironment boarding is the way to go here, not kennels.

DON'T punish your pet when they are scared ­ it makes him/her more anxious and confirms that there is something to be frightened of.

DON'T reassure your pet (this is the hardest one!) ­ it rewards the behaviour and increases the chance of it becoming far worse next time he feels fear.

DON'T pay any attention to fear that seems to occur without reason. Wait for your pet to recover and then give him/her all the attention and praise you want to.

Get help from a professional

Contact one of the following dog trainers, pet behaviourists or organisations for more help in treating your dogs noise phobia:

Caroline Kjall , Dog Trainer, Great Offley, Hertfordshire
07932 686 998 E-mail: Caroline Kjall

Pam Haynes , Dog Trainer, home visits in Beds/Herts
01438 820 908 or 07711 653 718 E-mail: Pam Haynes

Melanie Daniels , Pet Behaviourist, home visits in Beds/Bucks/Herts
01234 750 789 E-mail: Melanie Daniels

Colette Kase, Pet Behaviour Counsellor, working in London and surrounding areas.
Phone: 0208 527 0349 Web: Colette Kase web site

- The UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists
Phone:  020 7243 0359 URL: www.ukrcb.co.uk

- Centre of applied Pet Ethology
01747 871258 URL: www.coape.f9.co.uk

- The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
01386 751151 URL: www.apbc.org.uk

- Association of Pet Dog Trainers
01428 707234 URL: www.apdt.co.uk

What you can do to help

Go to The Petition Site and sign the petition to stop fireworks except for organised events.

Read the Governments info about What action can be taken against the misuse of fireworks?

Recommended reading

Fear of Fireworks
Firework phobias by Burns Pet Nutrition

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