How NIX and I Dealt with the Fourth of July, and Survive His Thunderstorm Phobia
As my dog has aged he has developed noise sensitivity.
I did all the right things when he was a youngster, I desensitized him to noise and we use to spend the Fourth of July wandering the streets of our neighborhood watching fireworks and having the dogs do scent detection work.
He used to be bomb proof.
But it can be common for dogs to become more sensitive to sound as they age, and he did.
Then a year ago he was diagnosed with meningitis and a seizure disorder . He is now almost 12 and a half and treatment for the symptoms of meningitis is the best I can offer at his age.
But his brain is swollen and so when he hears loud noises, it can actually hurt him. Not to mention the fact that stress can cause seizures and a seizure could ultimately kill him at his age.
AND, he is my heart and soul. Most days, I think he is my reason for living. I would do anything for this dog.
So I have gotten more familiar with how to treat and deal with noise sensitivity as it relates to him and his health.
You must train for these events when, and this is really really important, there is no storm coming.
If every time you run through a training program or desensitization program and immediately following your training there is a storm…you are just the precursor to the storm for your dog.
YOU can illicit stress and trauma for your dog if you are not careful.
So train several times a week for thunderstorms or other overwhelming noises!
First I wipe my dog down with dryer sheets. I have read, in many places that the electricity in an electrical storm can actually shock and hurt your dog. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is worth a try (and he smells fabulous afterward) so I wipe him down with a dryer sheet.
Next, I make him a peanut butter bone or give him a rawhide or bully stick to chew on and keep him occupied.
Some swear by the Thundershirt so you can also put this on if you are a believer!
Then we head off to my bedroom, his safe place and “haven” for a storm.
How to Make it a Haven…
Block all light. I have noticed if my dog can see the lightning strike his whole body tenses and prepares for the boom of the thunder. I want to block all triggers to this fear.
I have two sets of drapes over my windows, and I have foam insulation cut out that I can easily put into the windows to block the rest of the light.
He has his own special therapeutic dog bed in a corner of the room.
I have a loud fan on that I leave on during the day (and night so I don’t have to hear the kids or cats running around). This fan cuts down on background noises which is helpful during a storm.
AND, I have a TV and radio in the bedroom so that I can drown noise out even more.
We head off to the bedroom and I take a moment to read a book, write some dog training articles, play on facebook, listen to some really LOUD Bon Jovi (thank goodness music doesn’t bother him) or we turn on the TV and watch a movie or two I have waiting on the DVR.
Training Sessions Don’t Have to be Long
When you are training for an event, 15 minutes to a half hour is all it takes to get your dog use to the regiment and getting into enjoying his treat.
During a storm, you may be stuck in there a bit longer!
Make sure to leave the fan and some noise (radio) on in your dog’s safe haven.
Wipe your dog down with dryer sheets if you so desire, before you go.
I know that occasionally I am going to be out shopping or working when a storm looms and there is nothing really that I can do for him while I am gone.
But I also know that by training for storms I am giving him the skills to know where to go and what to do when I am gone, and I know that he goes into the bedroom at the first sign of a storm.
On the Fourth of July
Last night was Independence Day with all the festivities and fireworks going on around us and around the house, I decided to stay home with my dog and make sure he was okay rather than going to partake.
So at about 8:30 when I heard the first explosion of celebrations I grabbed his PB bone and we headed to the bedroom.
We shared Cheetos and milk and he had his bone and we watched chick flicks until the kids and husband returned. And, I am proud to say it worked like a charm, I don’t think he heard one firework or fire cracker.
And, I believe that is due to my due diligence in getting him into the bedroom and comfortable in that environment!
Good luck to all of you with phobic dogs! I swear by this program!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.