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NO-BARK, NO-BITE FIREWORKS

July 2, 2013
ZackieBoy

ZackieBoy

If you and your pooch are getting a little nervous about the upcoming noisy celebrations of the 4th just around the corner, you are not alone. Many people are the owners of dogs who suffer from noise phobias.

Dr. James Ha, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Washington and a specialist in animal behavior has identified three ways to help us pet owners handle noise phobias in our pets. But he advises us to consider them seriously because each comes with its own pros and cons.

4th of July Fireworks

4th of July Fireworks

Management of the phobia involves controlling the situation. For example, owners may remove the dog from the situation by taking their dog to a kennel nowhere near the potential noise of celebratory fireworks. Many kennels offer Fourth of July specials just for this reason. Some more creative owners/managers might move their pooch into the basement and play music loudly so as to drown out the sound of the fireworks.

Treatment of the phobia might include gentle acupressure wraps such as a product called Anxiety Wrap. It is intended to calm dogs down during thunderstorms and other acute or short-term situations. There are many similar products that essentially all work the same way. There is some short-term benefit, these types of product’s research does not verify any significant impact on chronic anxiety, which is the type of anxiety most animals exhibit. A second way to treat the phobia is with counterconditioning, a method that replaces undesirable responses to stimuli such as fear, with positive ones.

Counterconditioning is not easy, but it does work every time because it actually targets the problem and offers a solution rather than just treating the symptom. The fear-producing stimulus has to be introduced to the animal at a low level and then gradually increased in intensity – all the while rewarding the dog for behaving. For example, if your four-legged friend freaks out at the sound of fireworks, you might want to get a recording of fireworks and play it for your pup, but not too loudly. As long as your dog doesn’t go bonkers, reward him with his favorite treat. If you keep at this for three days or so, two or three times a day, most dogs will begin to feel anxiety, but then calm themselves down and start looking for the treat. In about a week, according to Hu, most dogs will have been conditioned to accept the noise.

Anti-Anxiety drugs offer the third option. Like with humans, however, you have to find the right one and the right dose for them to be very effective. Combining the medication with counterconditioning may work to help lower your pets’ anxiety threshold enough to give you the time you need to work the counterconditioning and most animals only need a little while to accept the noise.

In the long run, you and your furry friend will be happier and better off because you’ve helped them eliminate their feelings of anxiety and being high-strung.

ABOUT ME

I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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From → Holiday, Pets, Psychology

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