How can I stop my dog being scared /afraid of thunder and fireworks?

scared dog cuddles cat
scared dog cuddles cat | Source

A great many dog owners have pets which are truly terrified of loud noises such as thunder or fireworks. We can find it equally distressing watching our traumatized dog cowering under our beds or behind our legs because they are petrified. The question is how can you stop your dog being scared of thunder, fireworks and other loud noises? Well there are a number of effective ways that this behavior can either be prevented or cured if handled correctly. This hub is written partly based on what I have learned from having dogs of my own over the years, and partly based on useful tips I picked up during my time working in two different veterinary surgeries.

I hope you will find this information useful and that you will find it prevents future problems in your dogs or puppies, and either cures the problem if it already exists in your pet, or at the very least reduces the stress your dog experiences when these noises are unavoidable.

Let's begin with some of the best ways to prevent this behavior developing in your young dog or puppy in the first place.

frightened dog
frightened dog | Source

Prevention

From a very young age you should concentrate some effort into making sure your pet is exposed to the sound of fireworks or thunder at a low volume that is gradually increased in order to desensitize him to the sounds. The easiest way to do this is to buy a specialist CD through your veterinary surgery or online. These CD's have all sorts of different sounds on them, and the idea is that over a period of days or weeks you play the offending noises on a low, but gradually increasing volume. During these times you keep your pet distracted with food, toys, affection etc, so that he not only learns the noise is not a bad thing, but actually quite the opposite.

scared dog
scared dog | Source

Cure

Assuming your dog is already scared of thunder, fireworks or other loud noises, then you can also try using the CD method I described previously. What you should not do is attempt to comfort and reassure your pet when he or she is showing fearful behavior. If you are wondering why this is a bad thing I will explain. Essentially by cuddling, talking kindly and generally comforting your terrified dog, you are rewarding the negative behavior and effectively training the dog to behave this way whenever confronted by these noises. The secret is to ignore the negative behavior and praise any signs of bravery or normality the dog exhibits.

Distraction is another good cure, play a game with your dog, give him a bone or fill one of those treat balls with biscuits so your dog has to roll it around the floor to get the treats out.

Bring another dog into the household for the evening when fireworks are expected. Make sure this visiting dog is one your dog already gets on well with, and that it is one not fearful of fireworks. Your dog should see the other dog acting normally when the fireworks go off and will learn that there is nothing to be scared of.

The DAP plugin I describe in the next section will also make the process of curing your dog of this fear much easier, so I recommend you buy one as part of your behavior modification routine.

fearful dog
fearful dog | Source

Reduce the Problem

Again the CD method can definitely help here if you are patient and persevere with the process.

Try blocking your dog's ears with cotton wool balls for the duration of the fireworks or the thunderstorm.

Turn up your television set to drown out the noise as much as possible.

Distract your dog with a bone, toy or a game.

Use a DAP plugin to calm your dog down. These are incredibly effective in a number of situations for example:

  • When you move house.
  • When you introduce a new dog to the existing dog in the household.
  • When you travel with your dog to new and strange properties.
  • When settling a new puppy into your home.
  • During storms or firework displays.

afraid dog
afraid dog | Source

How to calm your dogs during fireworks

#28 of 30 in the March 2012 Challenge

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Comments 58 comments

Lord De Cross profile image

Lord De Cross 4 years ago

Great article. One of my dogs wanted to sit on my lap for the longest when she heard that thunder. Your advices are pretty donw to earth Misty.Voted up and sharing!

LORD


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Lord, really pleased you liked this hub :)


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Ok that makes lots of sense. I do exactly the wrong thing - I do encourage them by cuddling them when storms or loud noises happen.

Actually - it amazes me how closely these kind of psychological things work for children in essence. If a little kid is exhibiting annoying behavior - the best psychologists say - ignore that particular behavior and it will dissipate! So - sounds like the same technique almost! I'll be much more AWARE if this now .. Thank you! I didn't ever think about it like that before!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Kelly, you would be amazed how often people do cuddle and comfort their dog in these situations, blissfully unaware they are making the problem worse. You are far from alone in making this mistake.

Teaching them in much the same way as the children makes sense, after all the principles are the same.

Thanks so much for commenting :)


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Hi Misty, great hub. I'm one of those who comforts my dog while fireworks are going off. Bonfire Night and New Year's are particularly stressful for her. I comforted her, because it seemed like the right thing to do. So thank you for sharing this, I'll bear it in mind next November. Voted up and shared.


Dubuquedogtrainer profile image

Dubuquedogtrainer 4 years ago from Dubuque, Iowa

Try the Anxiety Wrap - see my hub: http://hubpages.com/animals/dog_anxiety_wrap...


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks JKenny, I hope this helps you next November and you can prepare in advance to help cure or at least control the problem :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Dubuquedogtrainer, thanks for commenting. Just a little tip, on Hubpages it is against the rules to self promote in another hubber's comment section without permission so links to your own hubs are a 'no no'. As a newbie you might not be aware of this so I will allow your comment. No offense, but next time you see this kind of hub you might want to ask first. You can read my hub on the main mistakes new hubbers make here:http://hubpages.com/community/The-Main-Mistakes-th...


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

The Renaissance lady strikes again!

We have much in common, Missy: minds like Hampton Court Maze, a garden of secrets. Never know what you are going to come up with next.

I was like that in the flood but am a bit exhausted now after doing this for about 30 years.

Good, sensible hub...but if you think you are going to cure all those anxious mums with their surrogate babies, you got another think coming...they live to cuddle them!

Bob


Pannonica profile image

Pannonica 4 years ago

Hi misty, great hub with lots of useful information. I've found over the years that all the various dogs I have owned are of course all different to the way they react.

I had one you could let a bomb go off next to her she wouldn't react to anything.

We have moved with the times and believe it or not I play animal videos on You Tube, they seem to be fully engrossed in the animal noises they don't hear anything else.

I want to investigate this CD though, many thanks, voted up.


Dubuquedogtrainer profile image

Dubuquedogtrainer 4 years ago from Dubuque, Iowa

Ok, thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt and for educating me in a kind way. You're right, I didn't know. I've seen other hubbers post links to their hubs so didn't realize, but it makes sense. Thanks for the tips!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Bob, I never know what I am going to write about next either. It makes it ever so hard to answer the question 'What do you write about?' when people ask me about my writing online lol.

I love to cuddle my pets too, it is a good thing, just not during thunderstorms or fireworks, at least not unless your dog isn't bothered by loud noises anyway, in which case it is just another cuddle.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Pannonica, the CDs of noises are great, and apart from the one I have added to the end of this hub there are plenty of others for sale by different companies. Sounds like your dogs are pretty comfortable with loud noises anyway. I always used to leave 'Animal Planet' on the TV for my Mum's greyhound if we went out while she was staying with us. I believe she enjoyed the sounds of the dogs and cats etc too.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Dubuquedogtrainer, no problem, we were all new once and made mistakes. Good luck here on Hubpages :)


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Misty, this is another fabulous article with excellent advise. There is nothing more harrowing or distressing to an owner to see their pet terrified. I had a Rough Collie bitch, Megan, who was petrified of fireworks. Initially my vet gave her some tranquilisers to get her over Bonfire Night and Guy Fawke's night celebrations. But obviously it's not what we wanted for her long term - having said that, seeing her zonked and relaxed was still preferable to seeing her terrified. Anyway, once the firwork season was over the vet introduced us to the CD's and the plugin - they are wonderful and they do work!

It is important for a dog's health to deal with fear effectively. But also if you have another dog. When I had Megan we had a younger dog Benji. He was so relaxed and laid back and didn't bother at first with fireworks. But when he saw Megan reacting, obviously he thought there was something to be scared off. So in the end we had two dogs to de-sensitise.

I really enjoyed this excellent hub and packed full of really important information. Voted up + awesome!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks for your excellent feedback Seeker7, I agree there is a risk that the non-frightened dog can learn the negative reaction that the fearful dog has. Perhaps the answer is to have two dogs who are non-fearful in the house at the time the fireworks are due so that the majority of 'the pack' are not showing fear.

So delighted you can personally endorse the fact that the CD's and plugins do work :)


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 4 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Hi, Cindy

Great tips here and although my dog doesn't bother about thunder, he is really terrified by fireworks. Guy Fawkes night sees this huge but loveable brute cowering under the dining room table or following me around the house wherever I go. I've never before considered this pet psychology approach - definitely worth trying!

Unfortunately, the local Neds around here don't only deliberately set fireworks off to scare pets, they have actually been known to fire them at dogs and dog walkers. I did a stupid thing one night and challenged a group of them, telling them that I was going to let the dog off the leash and that if either he or I got a hold of any one of them, the unfortunate one would never be capable of lighting another firework again as long as he lived. I was bluffing (I think!) but it had the desired effect and they scarpered pretty quick.

I'll definitely look in to this CD thing before 5th November this year. Thanks.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Actually Gordon I reckon you did the right thing. Those twats need to be scared within an inch of their lives, evil little gits that they are.

The CD works really well, so I hope you do give it a try (ideally along with the DAP plugin).


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 4 years ago from Minnesota

Yikes! I too cuddle my doggies when their scared. I appreciate your great tips for reducing the fear. Both of my rescue dogs get scared of many things including fire works and storms. I hit every button.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Minnetonka Twin, I really hope you can use these tips to help cure your doggies of their fear. Thanks for all the votes :)


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Thank you for this hub. we have 2 dogs. one is scared, one is not. Next time, we will try the CD. We have about 4 CDs that are just very soft music. We love all of them, but have never had them on during thunder storms. Voted up!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

It is more than that though Michele, what you need are the CD's that are actually recordings of fireworks, thunder storms, cars back firing, roaring motorbikes etc etc. These are the CD's that you use quietly at first and then gradually increase the volumes over time to desensitize your dogs to the offending noises.

Of course during a storm or fireworks display you can turn your TV on or play ordinary CD's quite loudly to cover over the noise of the thunder or fireworks.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Thanks, now I understand more than I did before:)

Sorry, I do need help sometimes. Thanks for your hubs.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

No problems Michele, perhaps I worded it badly in the hub :)


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

No, you wrote it very well. It was my fault, while I was reading, I was just thinking too much about the dog and not paying enough attention to the wording of the hub.

Thanks again!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Michele, anyway at least you know what you can buy now that should help solve the problem your one doggie has :)


Billie Pagliolo profile image

Billie Pagliolo 4 years ago from Laguna Hills, California

Gee, Misty, I just explain to my shitzu,Scooter, that when he sees lightning, he has to begin counting (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two) and that will tell him how many miles the lightning is actually away from us. It worked for me when someone finally explained that to me in my 30s! Of course there was that time when the lightning and the thunder happened at the same time and both Scooter and I raced for a place under the bed.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

LOL, great comment Billie :)


Dubuquedogtrainer profile image

Dubuquedogtrainer 4 years ago from Dubuque, Iowa

Just had someone post a link to their hub on similar topic on my latest hub...going to refer to your hub about mistakes but I don't think it' a new hubber.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Dubuquedogtrainer. It is so annoying when people do that. You can always see how long they have been on HP by going to their profile page and looking at where it says how long they have been on the site for.


Crystal Tatum profile image

Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

Interesting and useful hub. I don't have a dog, but I once pet sat a dog that barked and ran all over the room in circles for about three hours straight while a thunderstorm raged outside. Wish I'd had access to this hub then!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Crystal Tatum, I hope you can at least pass on the info :)


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

This is a very useful hub. I too am guilty of the cuddles during a thunderstorm. The CD sounds like a perfect way to get them used to the sounds and ralise they are not in danger.

Great hub


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Rosemary50, at least you will know not to cuddle them next time, and hopefully if you buy one of the CD's and start working with it now, you won't need to go down the cuddles route anyway as the problem will have been cured :)


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

My Miniature Schnauzer is scared to death of fire works and storms. She runs under the bed and won't come out till it's over. I feel so sorry for her, but she won't even come to me for reassurance even if I wanted to cuddle her. Yesterday on a walk, a motorcycle went by and backfired. She tried very hard to run home, but couldn't cause I had her on a leash. Your advice on the CD sounds like a good one to me; I'll try that. Thanks. I'll vote this UP, etc., and I'd like to share.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Mary. The CD's are excellent because they contain a number of different sounds that you can work with, so I am sure cars backfiring or things like motorbikes etc will also be on them, not just storms and fireworks.

Good Luck


teribithia profile image

teribithia 4 years ago from NY Broklyn

Lol very helpful guide for us to train the dog.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Than teribithia, glad you found this helpful :)


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I just came back to say how much I hate fireworks! My poor Baby and I were on a walk the day after the 4th. when we heard a loud boom. Oh, Boy, that did it! Oh, the terror. Now she doesn't want to go for a walk which was her very favorite thing to do! Yesterday was better, but my dog is just traumatized!

I wish I had started training her as you mention when she was a pup not to be afraid.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

It still isn't too late Mary, and if you can desensitize her to the sound of fireworks using the CD method she is less likely to be bothered about going for a walk in fear of hearing one in the future. It will take time and perseverance, but if you continue to get her used to the CD until she is happy to eat her meals etc whilst it is playing, you should find she will be fine.


almorr 4 years ago

Hi Misty, like the bit about the CD getting a bit louder, it will get the dog to be used to thunder and firework noises, I used to have a dog, however I have a cat and she does not bother the least bit about thunder or fireworks, except one time. It was new year 2000, she was out in the garden a midnight, then all of a sudden, hell broke lose, fireworks everywhere welcoming in the new millennium, she rushed into the house and under the sitee. My neighbor has 2 dogs, I often take them walks. In July there was a thunderstorm and Roller the dog was terrified, as my neighbor was at work I took Roller into my house until the storm passed, he met my cat Oscar and they seemed quite friendly together, so some cats and dogs can be friendly towards each other. There is a photo of Oscar my cat on my Facebook Page at Al Morr

Kind regards

Alan


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Alan, yes it is true cats and dogs can be very good friends. My cats generally get on very well with dogs and I have lived with both a cat and dogs at the same time more than once in my life. I will have to look up your Facebook page so I can look at the photo of Oscar :)

Regards

Cindy


Ov Strickland profile image

Ov Strickland 4 years ago from El Segundo, CA

This is very helpful, misty. Glad I found you. I am definitely trying these with my dog. :) hope it works. Thanks a lot!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Glad to be of help Ov, and good luck with your dog, hopefully he/she will soon be completely chilled out when the firework displays begin.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Just came back to reread your Hub. I was having this problem with my Schnauzer and I got a Thundershirt. I wrote a Hub about that. It is a miracle! I wish I had invented that thing.


Tim Chirillo profile image

Tim Chirillo 3 years ago from Florida

that Thundershirt did not work for our pitbull. Oh my god that scared dog looks truly terrified.. lol awww


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Lol, glad you got a smile out of the image Tim ;)


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

Good Morning. May I link this Hub into the one I wrote on the same subject? It's the one I wrote about the Thundershirt? I still like that very much.

Thanks in advance.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

That would be great Mary, please feel free to do this. If you want me to add a link back to your hub then feel free to post the link here and I will then add that link to a links capsule. Thank you.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

Thanks. I don't think I am allowed to place my link here, though. Just go to my Hub and link from there, OK?

I have linked this Hub into mine already, thanks.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

You are allowed to place your link here if the author gives you permission to Mary, (just so you know for future reference). Will try to track down your hub to get the link shortly. Thanks again :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Okay, link added at the end of the hub Mary.


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

I didn't know we could put links to our work in comments, so that is good to know! Thanks for taking the time to track mine down and linking.

Thanks again, Mary


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 3 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Yes you can, but only if you ask the author of the hub first and they say they haven't got a problem with it (otherwise it is spamming of course).


almorr 2 years ago

Hi Cindy, just read this Hub about dogs being scared during thunderstorms or firewords. Where I live in Central Scotland we don't really get many thunderstorms, in fact last year, 2013, I only can remember hearing thunder in the distance about 5 times. The Channel Islands probably get a lot more coming over from France.

I like the bit about buying a CD with the noise of thunder and fireworks to let the dog get used to those sounds. I only had a dog for about 6 months during the summer about 15 years ago, when she heard thunder, she barked and barked for ages, whereas the cat I now have does not seem to mind. Eeshan, the cat I now have did not like the sound of fireworks last November or at New Year at midnight.

Regards

Alan


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Alan,

Perhaps you could get hold of one of the CD's to use on Eeshan, they are very effective if you follow the instructions they provide.

Good luck

Regards

Cindy


almorr 2 years ago

Thank's Cindy, I'll look around for one of the CD's for my cat Eeshan

Regards

Alan


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I think you can buy them on Amazon/eBay Alan, but if not many pet shops or veterinary surgeries have them on sale too.

Regards

Cindy

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