Many dogs develop fears in the same way that young children do when they don’t understand something. Try to turn any potential fearful moment into a party because it can be very difficult to change a feeling after it’s developed. Always make positive associations for your dogs any time they are uncomfortable with a situation.
Find some wonderful food or toy that will motivate your dog. We cook chicken and cut it into very tiny pieces, the size of half a Cheerio. Your timing must be good so try to be proactive and begin feeding your dog as soon as you see or hear anything that may be of some concern. Stop if your dog becomes reactive and move away from the distraction. It’s important to work at the dog’s comfort level. Once the dog is calm try to move just a little closer but go very slowly. This may take some time so don’t rush it.
Hear thunder, give a treat or toss a ball or squeak a toy.
See the school bus or trash truck, begin feeding the dog chicken with the idea that after a while the dog will see a bus and look at you instead of being scared.
Some fears can be just too deep to feed or play away. Sometimes you may need help from over the counter products: A Thundershirt is a jersey material that wraps around the dog and is held in place with velcro straps. It’s similar to wrapping an infant tightly in a blanket. The pressure helps to relieve anxiety.
Other products may be drops such as Rescue Remedy to put on food or a variety of stress relief treats. Of course your vet is always a great source if over the counter products are not successful for your dog.
Our Missie developed a severe case of anxiety when the Town of Vienna moved the July 4th fireworks from the Community Center to a park close to our home. The show is beautiful but just extremely loud. She’s a “ball” dog but no amount of playing can calm her. Missie wears her Thundershirt, takes a little medication prescribed by our vet at Oakton Vienna Vet and takes her place under our bed. Drapes are closed and the television is turned up a bit.
If you can’t be home with your dogs during storms or fireworks be sure they have a safe place to hide. Some dogs prefer closets. It might help to birdcage a crate if your dog uses one. Be sure your home is secure and the dog can not get out. Many pets panic and escape especially during fireworks.
Just be aware that fears can easily develop and try to be proactive.