It’s that time of year! The 5-day forecast shows storm after storm. And I don’t know about you, but I’m already hearing fireworks around my neighborhood in the evenings. These are the kinds of noises that turn my dog into a shaky mess, especially when it happens day after day.
When our dogs get stressed, their bodies release all sorts of chemicals in response, just like us. One stressful incident, one that sends your dog off running under the bed, barking uncontrollably, or trembling in the corner, can flood his system with stress hormones that can take up to 72 hours to subside. So, when there’s a huge storm one night and loud fireworks the next, it can be really difficult for your pup to recover.
At my day job, I help people pick out products to help their dogs (and cats) through these events. Plus, I have a dog who is sensitive to noise, among other things. Money doesn’t always buy relief, but there are some awesome tools out there.
Here are some of my favorite ways to help pets cope with the sounds of summer:
- Thundershirt: The Thundershirt is a breathable fabric anxiety wrap designed to fit tightly around your dog’s torso and chest. Its calming effect works the same way swaddling does for a baby, kind of like a hug. Just make sure you try it out for an hour or two at a time starting a few days before you expect the scary event to happen. If you know the fireworks start at dusk, put the Thundershirt on an hour before.
- L-Theanine: This amino acid is naturally found in green tea. It has been shown to reduce stress and boost mood in humans and other animals. Since my dog is a bit of a nervous nelly, he gets a dose every day with his breakfast, and more if something stressful is happening. L-Theanine is the main ingredient in Anxitane, an over-the-counter drug for dogs, which helped immensely for my dog, but then I switched to L-Theanine capsules from Whole Foods in the same dose when it ended up being much less expensive.
- D.A.P. Pheromone: D.A.P. or Dog Appeasing Pheromone is a scent given off by mother dogs while nursing their pups. You can buy pheromone collars or plug-in diffusers by brands like Comfort Zone.
- Music: There is some evidence that certain music can be calming to dogs. Through A Dog’s Ear is one popular recording made for dogs. I’ve also heard good reviews of something called dog “laughter,” which is a vocalization that dogs use during play and friendly encounters with other dogs and people. There is a CD available online of these sounds. A good white noise machine can help too.
- Calming touch: T-Touch techniques and long, slow, calm petting can do wonders for an anxious dog. Patting, shushing, and hugging can make anxiety during storms and fireworks worse. Although sometimes when it’s storming in the middle of the night and my dog is trembling on the bed next to me, I admit I’ll give him a good tight hug.
For some dogs, just one of these suggestions is a quick fix.
For others, a combination of approaches and some trial-and-error is necessary. Remember to be patient – it’s frustrating, but it’s really hard for some dogs to conquer their fear of certain noises and some may not ever get over it. Many of the options listed above can provide some relief during short periods of stress. However for dogs who completely lose their minds during stressful events, or those who appear to be stressed all the time with little or no provocation, a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist may be the best option as they may need pharmaceutical help. A trainer can help you figure out the best way to manage your dog’s stress, too. We like to say that all of these options fall into the category of “can’t hurt, might help.”
Good luck, and have a safe, fun, low-stress holiday!