Greyhound Friends of NJ, Inc.
PO BOX 4416
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 -0669
(732) 356-4370
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Helping Your Dog Overcome Fear of Fireworks and Thunder



What You Can Do To Help

Create a Safe Place
Try to create a safe place for your dog to go to when she hears the noises that frighten her. But remember, this must be a safe location from her perspective, not yours. Notice where she goes, or tries to go, when she is frightened, and if at all possible, give her access to that place. If she is trying to get inside the house, consider installing a dog door. If she is trying to get under your bed, give her access to your bedroom.
You can also create a "hidey-hole" that is dark, small and shielded from the frightening sound as much as possible (a fan or radio playing will help block out the sound). Encourage her to go there when you are home and the thunder or other noise occurs. Feed her in that location and associate other "good things" happening to her there. She must be able to come and go from this location freely. Confining her in the "hidey-hole" when she does not want to be there will only cause more problems. The "safe place" approach may work with some dogs, but not all. Some dogs are motivated to move and be active when frightened and “hiding out" will not help them feel less fearful.

Distract Your Dog
This method works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Encourage her to engage in any activity that captures her attention and distracts her from behaving fearfully. Start when she first alerts you to the noise and is not yet showing a lot of fearful behavior, but is only watchful. Immediately try to interest her in doing something that she really enjoys. Get out the tennis ball and play fetch (in an escape proof area) or practice some commands that she knows. Give her a lot of praise and treats for paying attention to the game or the commands. As the storm or the noise builds, you may not be able to keep her attention on the activity, but it might delay the start of the fearful behavior for longer and longer each time you do it. If you cannot keep her attention and she begins acting afraid, stop the process. If you continue, you may inadvertently reinforce her fearful behavior.

Attempting to reassure your dog when she is afraid may reinforce her fearful behavior. If you pet, soothe or give treats to her when she is behaving fearfully, she may interpret this as a reward for her fearful behavior. Instead, try to behave normally, as if you do not notice her fearfulness.
Putting your dog in a crate to prevent her from being destructive during a thunderstorm is not recommended. She will still be afraid when she is in the crate and is likely to injure herself, perhaps even severely, while attempting to get out of the crate.
Do not punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment will only make her more fearful.
Do not try to force your dog to experience or be close to the sound that frightens her. For example, making her stay close to a group of children who are lighting firecrackers will only make her more afraid, and could cause her to become aggressive in an attempt to escape from the situation.
Obedience classes will not make your dog less afraid of thunder or other noises, but could help boost her general confidence.

Consult Your Veterinarian
Medication may be available which can make your dog less anxious for short time periods. Your veterinarian is the only person who is licensed and qualified to prescribe medication for your dog. Do not attempt to give your dog any over-the-counter or prescription medication without consulting your
veterinarian. Animals do not respond to drugs the same way people do, and a medication that may be safe for humans could be fatal to your dog. Drug therapy alone will not reduce fears and phobias permanently, but in extreme cases, behavior modification and medication used together might be the best approach.

Make a tape with firecracker noises on it.
Play the tape at such a low volume that your dog does not respond fearfully. While the tape is playing, feed her dinner, give her a treat or play her favorite game.
In your next session, play the tape a little louder while you feed her or play her favorite game.
Continue increasing the volume through many sessions over a period of several weeks or months. If at any time while the tape is playing, she displays fearful behavior, STOP. Begin your next session at a lower volume - one that does not produce anxiety - and proceed more slowly. If these techniques are not used correctly, they will not be successful and can even make the problem worse. For some fears, it can be difficult to recreate the fear stimulus. For example, thunder is accompanied by changes in barometric pressure, lightning and rain, and your dog’s fearful response may be to the combination of these things and not just the thunder. You may need professional assistance to create and implement this kind of behavior modification program.

These approaches do not work because they do not decrease your dog's fear. Merely trying to prevent her from escaping or being destructive will not work. If she is still afraid, she will continue to show that fear in whatever way she can (digging, jumping, climbing, chewing, barking, howling).

Taken from Dumb Friends League.

FIREWORKS - Help for your dog

While some dogs (and cats, and hamsters) are able to take these minor explosions in their stride, others can suffer serious psychological and physical damage. Dogs are especially vulnerable because of their very sensitive hearing and fireworks can cause them extreme distress.  


Signs of stress

Any of these types of behavior could indicate that your dog is developing a phobia towards noise. Occasionally, once a phobia begins to develop, your dog may begin to display similar symptoms towards other sudden noises, so it is very important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity. The first thing to do if you are concerned about your dog’s reaction to fireworks is to watch him for signs of stress and anxiety. These can include:  
• trembling
• restlessness
• destructiveness
• hiding
• pacing
• panting
• attention seeking
• shaking
• escape behavior
• loss of house training
• whining
• barking

Early experiences are very important for the development of puppies and if dogs are exposed to a variety of sights and sounds from an early age, they’re less likely to have adverse reactions when they grow up. However, there’s no guarantee that even the soundest of dogs won’t display an unexpected reaction later in life – it only takes a single scary event to induce a fear response.


When fireworks are expected, you can help your dog by:  

• Ensuring he always wear a collar and tags – just in case of a successful escape attempt.
• Trying to ignore any signs of restlessness and stress and rewarding any calm, relaxed behavior.
• Preparing a “den” for him, away from windows.
• Covering a table with a blanket or placing his bed behind a sofa where he will feel safe, secure and comfortable.
• Closing the curtains to reduce the likelihood of flashes, and turning on the TV or radio.
• Feeding your dog before the noise starts – this should encourage him to rest.
• Not leaving him alone – dogs are pack animals and need the security and confidence provided by the presence of others.
• Finding him a friend! The companionship of a confident dog can give reassurance to a fearful one.
• Occupying him with food-filled toys or other fun activities.
• Choosing safe times for exercise and relief.
• Temporarily moving his sleeping area. Moving it closer to you can increase his confidence.
• Remaining calm and relaxed yourself (even if you’re frightened of fireworks too!).


We would advise you never to:

• Let your dog go outside when fireworks are sounding, even if he shows no signs of stress.
• Exercise or walk him when fireworks are likely.
• Punish your dog for being frightened.
• Leave him alone during the firework period.
Fuss or try and reassure your dog when he is frightened, as this rewards the fear behaviour and will encourage him to repeat it.
• Take your dog to a firework display.

If you take all these steps and your dog is still very distressed by firework noise, you may need some additional help from a specialist, such as a health advisor, dog trainer, behaviorist or vet. 

There are also a number of products and resources on the market which can help. These include: desensitization CDs (recordings of noises which enable the dog to get used to them in a safe environment), behavior modification programs, homeopathic remedies, pheromonatherapy, complementary therapies, and prescribed medication – supervised by a vet. 

The earlier in advance you begin your preparations, the more likely it is that your dog will be able to cope with the sound of fireworks. A vet can give you specific techniques to help him to adjust to sudden sounds in a safe environment, or refer you to a behaviorist.


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Fireworks - ouch! (And Hot Weather Tips)


The 4th of July may be an unpleasant time for your dog. The booming of fireworks, even small one, can frighten your dog. In some cases it may even cause hearing damage. Dogs hearing can be 10 times more sensitive than humans. Dogs show their fear in many ways. The most common is shaking, whining or hiding (even running away). In extreme cases (or phobias) the dog may exhibit some really bizarre reactions through anxiety or fear. Their urge to get away from the excitement may make them chew through doors or even crash through windows.

So, what can you do? Well, here are some tips:

Your pet should have identification in case they happen to run away when they hear a loud noise. This will help animal control or shelters reunite them with their owner.
Do not leave them outside alone. This is one time of the year that you need to be with them in case someone lights off fireworks. They could get loose. Even worse, if they are on a chain they may be in such a fear that they would injure themselves.

Keeps dogs away from Fireworks! Don't take them to fireworks displays. This may be as simple as keeping them indoors in a secure area which is blocked from the sound. Or you might consider seeing if the dog can be taken to another location (start with a friend) if you are in a home near fireworks displays. If staying home, consider closing the shades on windows and playing music loud enough to cover the sound.

Be prepared if you are taking your dog for a walk. Make sure the dog is leashed.

Take an early walk, before it is dark, to make sure your dog can relieve itself before the action starts. Some dogs won't go outside when fireworks are going off.

You may need to provide extra attention. This might include the need to distract them. Dome behaviorists feel that if you try to soothe them too much you may actually encourage the fearful behavior. Your own actions might make the dog feel there is something wrong. It may be a better idea to play games with them or find some other normal activity that the dog enjoys.

If you know your dog has a problem with fireworks, and can not avoid the situation, consult a vet well before the event. The vet may supply tranquilizers
(which are difficult to get on the holiday)

The holiday is full of other potential dangers for your dog.

You may take your dog on picnics, where he/she could get into foods and scraps that can cause harm. Watch out for chicken bones for example. Even worse, you dog may garbage pick and swallow metal foil used to wrap foods.

The hot summer and sun can be a source of harm. Be sure to have plenty of water available, and a shading place for your best friend to cool down. The sun can burn your dog just as easily as it burns you. There are sun screens in grooming sprays - and you can use a child safe sun block on your dogs exposed skin areas (careful of the eyes).

Never leave you dog in a parked car. Heat can quickly dehydrate them or cause heat stroke.

If you dog is not a swimmer, be careful - and watch them as you would a child. Even experienced swimmers can get exhausted and drown.


Fear of Thunder and Lightning
The following tips were condensed from an article by golden retriever owner Gwen Thee:

Crate Training
Crate-trained dogs may cope better during the storm if confined to their own safe place. An airline crate, or a wire crate that is covered, may work better than an open wire crate.

Calm Reassurance
Some dogs need to be reassured that there is nothing to fear. If the storm makes you nervous, your dog may be picking that up. However, be careful not to inadvertently rewarding the dog for a fear reaction. If you positively reinforce fear reactions with soothing sounds or stroking when the dog exhibits fear, the reactions will continue. By ignoring the storm and carrying on with a normal routine, you convey that the storm is no big deal. Another way to reassure the dog without reinforcing the fear reaction is to massage or brush your dog in long even strokes.

Positive Reinforcement
If your dog has a favorite indoor game, or a special treat, try to absorb him in that during the storm. Practice this during storms, and hopefully the dog will eventually associate the storm with good things.

Noise Desensitization
Exposing your dog to different loud noises, and always making sure something good happens, can help to reduce the dog's sensitivity to loud noises. You can play tapes of storms, starting at a low volume and working up to very high volume, and stroke, play with, and teach the dog to ignore the sound. (K-9 Consultants produced a tape with sound effects and instructions available at some pet supply outlets or by calling 800-952-6517.)

Severe Reactions
These may require behavior modification (see a canine behavior specialist) and/or drug therapy involving such drugs as Tranxene and buspirone, or beta-blockers such as Propanolol and Inderol (administered only by a veterinarian).

Homeopathic Remedies
For milder thunderstorm fears, the Bach Flower (Rescue Remedy or Nature's Rescue) is recommended. Place 4 drops on the dog's tongue or side of the mouth, or in the dog's water bowl. Dose may be repeated 4-5 times an hour.

Taken from Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.