A Guide to Assist in the Management of Noise Fears.
- Owner Interaction.
Remain positive and attentive to your pet. Remember dogs especially, read your facial movements and can pick up your blood sugar levels, adrenaline and in some cases, your blood-pressure! You not only have to ‘look’ calm and up-beat around your dog, you have to ‘be’ both upbeat and calm around the pet. You need to resist the urge to directly reassure your pet. This does not mean you ignore or reject their appeals to you for reassurance. Remain available but offer only signals of calm relaxation. Panicked anxious pets are not initially using their main channel of information-their nose, they are using their eyes in a hypervigilant manner. This means you need to really ‘look’ and to ‘move’ in a calm slow manner. As you do that, your own body begins to calm and then your own chemical stress hormones start to subside. Now when your dog calms down enough to switch back to using their nose to check out their surroundings, you the owner are no longer polluting those surroundings with your negative pher0mones or ‘vibe’.
Allow your dog to sniff or push their heads into your hands or onto your body, The pets are doing this to seek information from their protector as an aid to calm themselves that there is nothing to be concerned about. Allow your dog to do this but remain calm and neutral. Do not over fuss or kiss on the head or overly cuddle as this can heighten the dog’s concern that something is truly wrong.
If your dog has hidden behind expensive electronics or near expensive ornaments etc that the human might be anxious about getting the dog away from, the human must hide any anxiety at the location of the dog. Otherwise the dog will misread the anxiety as being about the impending weather or noise issue, not where the pet is hiding.
Stay calm and slowly remove the dog from the area of concern then ensure the pet can’t race back in there moments later.
Prepare a den for the dog before the expected event. Research shows that animals tend to run away from danger. You need to provide an area within your property boundaries that can attract the pet to seek it out rather than try to madly scale the fences or walls. Giving the dog some meals, treats, chews and toys in the den over the period running up to firework night will make the den a safer, more relaxing place that the dog chooses to go to when feeling afraid. Pets need to be able to go to this safe zone 24/7, in good times as well, not just bad times-the pet needs to associate this den with positive thoughts so organise some playtimes or some meals around this Den completely unrelated to storm or firework activity.
2b) This sense of security can be further enhanced by moving the dog’s bed inside the den and installing a calming pheromone product such as an Adaptil® plug-in diffuser nearby. If a plug in is not possible, Adaptil also comes as a spray you can apply to bedding or dog clothing 15mins before use. The longer the dog is exposed to the pheromone prior to the fireworks or thunderstorms, the better prepared they will be to cope with the challenge. If the dog’s den has to be outside, then consider using an Adaptil® low stress calming collar on your dog. Only use the collar if prescribed by your Vet as some dogs are not suited to the collar.
Note: The den must be available to the dog at all times, especially when the pet is alone. However, there is no point having Any den more than one metre from your back door. All dogs prefer to lie as close to the entry point of the house as they can if given a choice. A frightened animal outside absolutely needs to be as close as possible to the house entry point but preferably inside that house if the pet is super anxious. A ‘den’ can be under a hall table in an inner hallway, a walk-in wardrobe, butler’s pantry- it doesn’t need to be an actual kennel inside, just a small safe space the animal can flee into.
A ‘den’ could be as simple as giving your dog access to hide under the blankets in your bed. The den should be a safe happy well used space-not something that only is accessed when terror strikes. If your animal sleeps with you, try and play one particular tune on your phone or sound system as you get ready for bed every night. This tune will come to mean calmness and relaxation that when then played during a storm, would in theory help to calm the pet even more.
Make sure you leave the Lights ON in the room the den is in. The den might provide a dark area but if the den is inside, try to leave the lights on in the room the den is in as this reduces the impact of the outside lightning flashes.
There are some modern Sound-proofing materials to make sound proof tents for pets to hide in-be creative.
3) Medication: Severely anxious pets may need additional anti-anxiety oral medication prescribed for them.
If your pet is only Firework Phobic, remember to start the use of your pet’s short-term emergency anti-anxiety tablets 36hrs before any anticipated problem (New Year’s Eve, Australia Day fireworks etc.).
Note: If your animal has not been seen by a vet in for some months, you will need to book an appointment to have the pet re-checked before any S4 medication for thunderstorm/fireworks phobia can be dispensed.
Often a pet becomes impossible to medicate once they become frantic with fear. However, there are teachable moments when the dog is calm in normal life. You need to find those moments. Try playing an upbeat tune just before your pets’ normal feed time and play this regularly; weirdly dogs like Turkish pop music which you can download and play before feeding time every time for weeks. This creates a Pavlov response and means we could in theory use this upbeat music to get a phobic pet to eat and take their medication even during a storm surge.
In late 2018, early 2019, we had hoped to have Sileo gel available to Australian pets for use in healthy pets during firework season but sadly the drug is still not available in Australia in 2021
Dogs should be taken for a calming walk when exposure to fireworks is less likely, such as before nightfall.
5) Food: If your dog does not get diarrhoea when scared, consider feeding a calming carbohydrate meal a couple of hours before the fireworks. If they are used to such ingredients, a small bland good carbohydrate dense meal, such as potato or rice and some turkey (full of tryptophan need to make serotonin calming brain hormone) or chicken, (cooked, no skin or bones) can be helpful to feed.
Add Vit. B to the meal.
Avoid raw food, red meats or bones at this time as these can make the pet more agitated and harder to calm.
6) Indoors: Owners should ensure that pets are safely inside and that doors, windows and all dog and cat flaps are secured. Don’t forget to avoid rooms with skylights especially during a lightning storm.
6b) Draw the curtains and have the TV on so as to mask the outside noise. BUT MAKE SURE THE TV CHANNEL YOU SELECT DOESN’T RELAY THE FIREWORKS-that has caught some owners out when suddenly the TV plays footage of the fireworks. Select your channel carefully. Play a favourite video or non-violent series that the dog has seen you sit down to enjoy often; that way they associate that back-ground noise with good owner ‘vibes’
6c) Playing calming music can also help– dogs have been shown to be soothed by classical music, especially Moonlight Sonata. Links to examples of other calming music can be found at the end of this post.
6d) If dog tends to run around wildly inside, put in dog harness and use short lead to keep the pet close to you to calm down. Use slow long deep calming strokes or massage on your pet. Stay calm, look calm and be calm in how you approach and handle your dog as they read our facial expressions and pick up on our worries. No fast jerky movements, be slow and calm and the dog will pick up on this. Re-read section 1 above.
6e) If your dog experiences noise phobia during thunderstorms, you can also run the shower or an ioniser unit to change the ions in the air.
Never punish or get cross with a fearful dog, because this will simply make the dog more afraid. Remain calm, relaxed and stay calmly available to your pet where possible.
7b) Counter-Conditioning + Noise* Therapy: A desensitization program can be done over some weeks for thunderstorm and noise phobic dogs using noise therapy. links to helpful sites can be found at the end of this post.
However, any deliberate exposure to a fear should only be done under the guidance of a trusted confidant person. Noise Aversion Therapy must only be done under controlled conditions in the presence of a trusted adult human and/or a calm unafraid companion pet. Sometimes, the additional presence of a calm dog, known to the frightened pet ,can help desensitise the phobic dog.
The exposure must be graded and only when the animal is on appropriate medication so that it can respond in a calmer way to the fear point. This therapy below should only be undertaken if prescribed by and under the guidance of your vet.
There are ‘teachable’ moments, so wait until those moments. You don’t try to teach someone to swim during a major storm, you chose a calmer time. The same goes for teaching a pet; wait until they are out of the Anxiety Brain Storm then start to teach them how better to respond to the situations of concern.
For thunder and other noise anxiety, consider having a favourite toy/treat that only appears with the thunder. This can then help change their association with the noise – i.e. nice treat appearing as opposed to upsetting noise. This Counter-conditions the dog to the noise.
8a) Whilst the ‘Thunder shirt‘ is anecdotally reported to help calm noise anxious dogs, you need to be aware that in an Australian summer heat, such garments can be a heat concern. If your dog is wearing such a shirt, then you need to be around to assist if the dog becomes entangled or over-heated. Reports of sheets wrapped so as to swaddle dog tightly to mimic the shirt are now appearing as well.
8b) Train your dog with positive rewards to wear pet specific ear-plugs or noise-cancelling headphones, such as Mutt Muffs (www.safeandsoundpets.com).
10)Other older suggestions were;
a) Put cotton wool plugs soaked with Vaseline in both ears-works only for Fireworks not Thunder, as Thunder has barometric pressure issues as well as noise to content with.
b) Add 4 drops of Rescue Remedy to the crown of head during a storm or attack and repeat up to 4 times every 20 mins.
*LINKS FOR NOISE THERAPY.
a) Calming sounds; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UI3OgSo6agg
b) Consider controlled* exposure to Thunder;https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xKvPoTDDtc
c) Fireworks; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peWPeFyMDb4