9 Ways to Ease Noise Anxiety in Dogs
With July 4th right around the corner, many of us are gearing up for a weekend of outdoor fun topped off with a good show of fireworks.
Unfortunately, others are anxiously preparing for their least favorite day of the year: when the sounds of fireworks send dogs of all shapes and sizes cowering into corners and bathrooms across the U.S. I count ourselves lucky that Topher seems to have no negative reaction to fireworks or thunder, having seen first hand the kind of deep anxiety these noises elicit in other dogs.
Here are a few things you can do to help ease noise anxiety in dogs, especially around the holidays that involve fireworks.
1. Give them plenty of exercise.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and outdoor time early in the day, before any fireworks are due to begin. The less pent up energy, the more likely your dog will be able to relax. A stressed dog with an excess of energy can easily become a destructive dog if noise triggers their anxiety or fear.
2. Keep them inside.
Even dogs that have never before displayed escape artist tendencies may escape a yard during a fireworks show or a thunderstorm—maybe even injuring themselves in the process—if their desire to flee these noises is strong enough. Keep your pets indoors on nights where you know a thunderstorm is coming, or a fireworks display is nearby, or if you know neighbors will be setting off fireworks nearby. And please, please, don’t bring your dog to a fireworks show.
3. Make sure they have ID.
One of the busiest times of year for shelters is right around Independence Day, because of the sheer number of pets that get scared and escape their yards or their homes during the fireworks celebrations. Any dog can run off, so always make sure your pets are wearing proper identification and that their microchip information is up to date.
4. Give them a safe, quiet space.
Our family dog, Sophie, retreats to the bathroom when there’s a bad thunderstorm happening, or a fireworks show nearby. Of all the spaces we offered, the bathroom was what she preferred most, so we tried to make those spaces more comfortable when we knew she’d be turning to them. Many dogs, when frightened by sounds they can’t identify or place, will retreat to small, enclosed spaces in order to feel safer. If your dog is crate trained, giving them access to their crate or putting it in a quieter portion of the house is a good option to help their noise anxiety.
5. Close the doors, windows, and blinds.
Removing visual stimulation can help calm a dog down and keep them from looping through anxious behavior like searching each window for the cause of the noises. Covering your dog’s crate may also help keep your dog calm through the noise event.
6. Occupy their time.
A dog busy working at something is a dog less likely to give in to noise anxiety (in most cases). A Kong filled with a frozen treat or a high value bully stick chew may be enough to keep your dog’s anxiety in check. For some dogs, their fear is simply too high—in these cases, you should look at desensitization training to improve their quality of life. Especially if you live in an area like we do in Georgia, where thunderstorms are weekly occurrences in the summer months.
7. Work on noise desensitization.
By playing sets of sounds that normally trigger your dog at a lower volume, you can begin desensitizing your dog to the sounds that make them anxious. Start by playing the recording at whatever volume level does not evoke a fearful response. Then, begin to increase the sound slightly. While your dog is calm, periodically feed them the best treats–anything your dog normally flips for. You want them to think that only great things happen when thunderstorm noises occur. Over time, their noise anxiety should decrease.
8. Use a calming spray or infuser.
Calming sprays, collars, and diffusers can be a useful tool for decreasing anxiety in dogs. When it comes to Topher’s anxiety, our veterinary behaviorist recommended the use of an Adaptil collar. Adaptil products are formulated to mimic the appeasement pheromones that normally comfort nursing puppies. Using a diffuser or spray during events that normally trigger anxiety will typically reduce your dog’s stress during these particular events.
9. Try an anxiety wrap.
Some dogs see great benefits from anxiety wraps—the maintained pressure of them reduces stress and keeps them calm during events like thunderstorms or fireworks displays. The original Anxiety Wrap and the Thundershirt are two great products to try for reducing your dog’s anxiety.
Always remember: if your dog’s anxiety is severe enough to be causing their overall quality of life to drastically decrease, consult your veterinarian to get started on a new path forward.
How do you keep your dogs calm during thunderstorms or fireworks displays?