Fireworks, thunder and other loud noises can be very upsetting to dogs.
Dogs hear sounds differently than we do and their hearing is much more acute. There are high-pitched whistles designed to call dogs which are not heard at all by the human ear.
You see and hear dogs howling during the emergency siren testing. If one dog starts responding, generally those around him will also, even those that by themselves would ignore the sound. All dogs do not react the same to sounds and some are much more bothered by loud noises. Some pay no attention to them at all while others become very frightened and upset.
During a thunderstorm, dogs can get kind of crazy and be very destructive, tearing up whatever might be within reach. We cannot punish the dog for this because it is done out of fear, not bad behavior. I once had a dog totally tear up the carpeting in my second floor apartment during a thunderstorm in his effort to get out. Under the carpeting was solid concrete. Fortunately, I did not have to replace the concrete. Some time later, I put him in the kennel during a thunderstorm and he suffered greatly from anxiety. With my next dog, I was determined not to have him be afraid of loud sounds. Every time it thundered, I made all sorts of happy sounds, gave him treats and played with him. He was not afraid of anything.
Sometimes we anticipate behavior or react in a way that is passed through to our dogs, and children. We cannot always be with our dogs and we certainly do not want to live in fear that they will cause damage or hurt themselves during an outbreak of loud noise. But also, we do not want them to live with that terrible fear. When we hear thunder, we might start worrying about getting the windows closed and the clothes off of the line and getting the kids into the house. Our pets feel this anxiety and react to it.
Start making the loud noise fun. Laugh, throw the ball, give the dog a belly rub, be very calm and make happy sounds. Do whatever it takes to get his mind off of the noise and onto something pleasant and fun. Do not anticipate that he will react to the noise. Anticipate that he will not be bothered and act as though it is nothing to worry about.
We encounter a lot of "noise" in our world today. Sirens, loud trucks, blaring music, chain saws and lots more. We have just had our 4th of July celebrations which generally are filled with loud and unusual noises. This noise is difficult for many dogs.
From early puppyhood, it is a good idea to start dogs off accepting noises and learning that these are not really frightening, only somewhat annoying. We all are eagerly waiting for the sound of thunder, which hopefully will bring wonderful refreshing, forest saving rain. It is great to sit out under a covered deck watching the downpour. If we are calm and enjoying the sounds, our dogs will soon learn that all is OK.
Side-note: A sweet dog is looking for a home where she can be someone's very best friend. She is young, spayed and loves children. E-mail me at the address below for information.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.