Fear of thunder and loud summer sounds (such as 4th of July fireworks), otherwise known as thunderphobia, can take even the bravest of pets by surprise and send them hiding under the covers. To combat stress occasioned by the sounds of patriotic fervor and nature alike, consider the following tips from Dr. Debra Horwitz, veterinarian and canine-behavior expert:
1. Divert your doggie’s attention with something more exciting, such as a new toy or a toss of their favorite ball.
2. Reassure without rewarding negative behavior: Be careful not to reinforce the thunderphobia at hand through well-intentioned sympathetic behavior, such as petting. This can make your dog feel like there really is something to fear. Instead, use a happy, energetic tone of voice and engage in playful movements that pair these frightening noises with positive, engaging behavior.
3. Desensitize: Anything, even the boom of fireworks and thunder, becomes less frightening with familiarity. So familiarize your dog and gradually desensitize him or her to its shock value with an audio recording of the fearful sound. Start by playing the recordings fairly softly, and then gradually increase the volume as your pooch reacts less and less to the noise.
Homeopathic remedies are also widely available, increasingly popular, and have shown promising results among some of the shyest of dogs when thunder strikes. Many guardians of thunderphobic pooches swear by Rescue Remedy, one of the Bach Flower remedies known for treating stress and anxiety in dogs. And calming collars containing aromatic herbs such as lavender and mint can assuage the fears of some of the most high-strung of canines. Anxiety wraps, such as the Thundershirt (Thundershirt.com), mimic the swaddling sensation for your furry friend; the light pressure has a calming effect. Before beginning a homeopathic or prescribed regimen, however, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.