Summer is fast approaching, and with it its share of thunderstorms and fireworks. The weather changes and the sound of the firecrackers are not always very well experienced by the dog who can, on this occasion, express signs of nervousness. Here are some tips to help a dog who is afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks fight against stress.
What Are The Reasons For Such Fear?
If when the thunder rumbles, your dog goes round, trembles, barks or groans, it is undoubtedly disturbed by this sudden change in weather. It is the same if during the first fireworks of July 14, your dog will hide under the bed.
The reasons for fear of thunderstorms or fireworks are: :
- a congenital character: some dogs are fearful of nature.
- a privation syndrome (see our Fact Sheet on this subject): some dogs have been little socialized. If a dog lives alone and has never been confronted with loud and disturbing noises before, it can be disturbed by thunderstorms or fireworks.
- a traumatic experience : if your dog was stuck outside on the day a thunderstorm broke without having the opportunity to return to safety, it most certainly retains the after-effects of this experience. Every Thunderbolt reminds him of his anxieties.
What Solutions Need To Be Put In Place?
Socialize your puppy !
From an early age, and especially in the first 12 weeks of life of the puppy, it is the period of socialization. This is essential : the puppy must be brought into contact and become familiar with as many stimuli as possible. It is necessary to bring your puppy in town, in various places and to put it in contact with different people foreign to the home – especially with the children – and different congeners (dogs, cats, NAC…).
It is a great way to get your companion accustomed to the sounds of everyday life and to avoid him becoming an anxious dog by what surrounds him. You will thus avoid that your dog develops phobias (see our file on this subject) : a phobia is a reaction of fear disproportionate to a stimulus of the normal environment.
Puppy schools are very interesting for this.
Get used to and decondition your dog
In order to help your dog better manage its fear of thunderstorms or fireworks, two techniques have been developed by canine behaviorists :
The most commonly used behavioural therapy is controlled immersion. The dog is placed in front of the stimulus of moderate intensity until a habituation is obtained: for example, he is made to listen regularly to a recorded thunderstorm sound with a low volume at the beginning and getting stronger.
We can also practice what we call counter-conditioning (or deconditioning) : we put the dog in a very pleasant, reassuring and motivating situation for him, for example we play with him with a toy that he particularly likes then we put him in front of the object of his phobia – here the recording of the storm – while continuing to play and reward normal behavior. We then create a new association : the recording of the storm is associated with something nice (game, reward, meal…).
It may be interesting to use a canine educator or behaviorist for this behavioural therapy.
Good to know: reprimanding your dog will not help him better manage his stress of thunderstorms and / or fireworks. Your understanding is essential to help overcome his fears.
Drug That May Help
On the advice of your veterinarian, you may find a drug aid to calm your companion.
There are also natural anxiolytic solutions to help your dog manage stress in special situations: Zylkène® and Adaptil®.
Zylkene® is made from a patented milk protein called alpha-casozepin. This protein helps the dog to live a stressful situation better from a week on. Its efficacy has been proven by various clinical studies in dogs and cats.
Adaptil® Express tablets contain a combination of GABA, amino acids and vitamin B with clinically proven action: effective on 9 out of 10 dogs after 2 hours and 100% of dogs relaxed 4 hours after taking.
These anti-stress medicines can be given in case of a stressful situation (fireworks, thunderstorms, transport, veterinary consultation…) or in background treatment during changes in your dog’s lifestyle (adoption, moving, arrival of a new companion…).