Dogs and Loud Noises – How to Calm a Dog
Is your dog afraid of fireworks or other loud noises? Like humans, every dog is different. Dogs and noise don’t always mix. Your dog might be perfectly comfortable around thunder, fireworks and other noisy stuff, but it’s equally likely they’ll be very unhappy and may need some dog anxiety treatment.
Here’s a common sense guidance about how to calm a dog down during fireworks or any other time when things get noisy and they start howling, barking, crying or simply looking unbearably miserable.
Do some dogs get more scared by noise than others?
Why do some dogs get distressed by sudden loud noises? Nobody really knows, but genetics might play a part. It appears herding dogs like Alsatians, Border Collies and Corgis seem more vulnerable to loud noises and might be a bit more anxious around storms, fireworks and other loud sounds.
Take walkies early on Guy Fawkes Night and New Year
First things first. On nights when you know for sure there’ll be fireworks, take your dog for a long walk before it gets dark so you can avoid the noise and lights. Just in case people start setting off fireworks early – which happens – keep your dog on a lead so they don’t panic and rush off. If there’s a storm brewing, take a walk before it breaks.
How to calm a dog down – It’s a love thing
You probably feel the same yourself. There’s nothing quite like a reassuring cuddle when you’re frightened. If your dog is scared or worried by loud noises, give them the love and hugs they need to feel safe. Being loving, kind and calm when your pet is frightened makes a lot of sense.
Some dogs feel better when they can hear soft, gentle music, probably because it helps mask the sounds that are frightening them. Classical music often works well, and you can also use healthy treats to reinforce the notion that everything is OK.
Let your dog sit down or lie down and relax wherever they want to – they’ll know where they feel the safest. You can bring their bed and toys to the safe place they’ve chosen, and shut the curtains and close the windows to keep the worst of the sound out. Set up food, snacks and water too, so they have everything they need. And stay with them until you can see they’re calm and happy.
It also helps to stay calm yourself. If your dog’s reaction is making you anxious, they’ll pick up on your anxiety and feel even worse. It’s your job to comfort one another!
Dog anxiety – Getting your dog used to loud noises
In the longer term, you can do a lot to gently de-sensitise your dog to loud noises. Positive reinforcement is always the best way to teach dogs new behaviour, praising them when they do well and rewarding learning.
You can actually buy training CDs to use, which contain a host of different sounds that dogs are often wary of, and there’s even a dedicated CD full of firework sounds including instructions about how to go through the five basic stages of firework training with your dog. It’s by Crash Bang Wallop.
There’s no guarantee. Like humans, every dog is different. But in the long run it could help your dog feel better in all sorts of noisy situations.
Dog calming preparations – Special dog stress prevention tablets and clever pheromones
Herbal tablets for nervous dogs can be really useful for calming down adverse reactions to noise. They usually contain natural preparations like brewer’s yeast, passion flower, valerian and hops, all of which can have a powerful calming effect. You can also buy plug-in dog pheromone diffusers and sprays that mimic the special chemical scents given off by female dogs with puppies, which help make a dog feel chilled, safe and calm. Do ask your vet for advice.
Dog scared of thunder and loud noises? Try a gentle pressurised doggie vest
There’s a special dog vest available called a thundershirt. It works by exerting a gentle, constant pressure on your dog’s body to help them stay calm and reduce stress. It acts very like a hug, and surveys taken by over 2000 dog owners reveal how more than 80% of dogs wearing the vest appear a lot calmer during thunder and fireworks.
Distractions and aversion therapy don’t always work
You can try to distract your dog by playing gentle games they enjoy, but it might not work – a scared dog doesn’t always feel like playing. The same goes for aversion therapy, where you try to de-sensitise your dog by making lots of loud noises in an attempt to get them used to it. It might work, but it also stands a good chance of making them more scared than ever – not recommended!
Doggie therapy by an animal behaviourist
If your DIY efforts fail you can always try a dog therapist, a behaviour specialist who knows how to work closely with your pet to reduce their fear. They will be able to read your dog’s body language and give you tips about making them more comfortable and less scared. Again, ask your vet for a recommendation.
The Human Foods That You Can’t Let Your Dog Eat
Dogs don’t always realise when a food is bad for them. Given the chance, some dogs will steal food when you’re not looking. It’s usually OK, but some foods are terribly dangerous for dogs and should be avoided at all costs. Here are the foods you cannot let your dog eat.
Doggie enemy number one – Chocolate is lethal
The smallest amount of chocolate can give your pet epileptic seizures, and can even kill. Chocolate contains Theobromine, a natural stimulant from cocoa beans. We can digest it, dogs can’t. Cooking chocolate is the worst sinner of all, containing the most Theobromine. White chocolate has the least Theobromine. Milk chocolate, cakes, biscuits, even hot chocolate drinks contain it. So it’s best not to give your dog any chocolate at all.
It also makes sense to avoid choccy doggy treats since although they don’t contain any of the poisonous stuff, they teach your dog that chocolate is a tasty thing.
What human foods can your dog safely eat?
In an ideal world you should feed your dog exclusively on dog food, not human food. Dog food is specially formulated to give your pet the exact nutrition he or she needs, perfect for keeping them fit and well, happy and healthy.
If your dog eats any of the foods we’ve mentioned, contact your vet straight away, especially important since the reaction to some of the foods isn’t instant and can
More doggie no-nos – Human foods dogs shouldn’t eat
There are plenty more foods that dogs shouldn’t eat. Some of these are OK in small quantities but it’s probably safer not to let your dog eat any at all.
- Shrimp and prawns are only OK if fully cooked with the shells and tails tails taken off
- Eggs are safe for dogs when fully cooked, but eating raw egg whites can give dogs a biotin deficiency, a rare nutritional disorder which can become serious, even fatal if untreated
- Coffee contains caffeine, which in turn degrades to lethal
Theobromine in a dog’s body. Never give your dog anything coffee flavoured
- Turkey is fine for dogs but not when it is covered in seriously toxic garlic and other seasonings. You also need to remove all the excess fat and skin, and check for small bones which can stick in the throat and tear the dog’s intestines. Having said that, as a rule, poultry bones are never a good thing for dogs since they splinter so easily
- Dairy foods aren’t very dog friendly. Cheese is fine as long as your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, but even then only in very small quantities and only if it’s low fat cheese. Ice cream is a baddie, again not suitable for dogs because they just don’t digest dairy foods very well
- Alcohol is a big no-no for dogs – keep them away from it
- Cinnamon oil irritates doggie mouths, making them feel very uncomfortable and poorly. It can easily lower their blood sugar to dangerous levels and lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, increased and decreased heart rates and sometimes even liver disease
- Avocado pips can easily choke dogs. Avocados are also poisonous due to a toxin called persin which damages doggie hearts as well as causing various problems with nursing
- Corn on the cob might be a common ingredient in dog food it’s far too difficult for dogs to digest on its own, and can block their intestines
- Never feed your dog uncooked or under-cooked fish, only fully cooked and never more than twice a week. Avoid tinned fish altogether because it often contains salt as well as small amounts of mercury. Avoid undercooked or raw salmon, which can contain parasites that make dogs very poorly with vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and even death
- Bread doesn’t have any nutritional value for dogs, it just packs on the calories with carbs
- Garlic is a big no-no, as are onions, leeks, chives and any member of the Allium family. They can all cause anaemia, which can mean unnaturally pale gums, a higher heart rate, weakness and even death
- Almonds are toxic to dogs. They can also block and damage your pet’s oesophagus or even tear their windpipe. Nuts are fatty, not a good idea for dogs, full stop. Salted nuts are the worst of all, since they can increase your pet’s water retention levels and over a long period can kill dogs with heart disease. Avoid salted peanuts.
- Steer well clear of extremely poisonous macadamia nuts, one of the biggest poisoners of dogs causing vomiting, high temperature, an inability to walk and lethargy, badly affecting the nervous system in a worst case scenario.
- Grapes and dried grapes – raisins and sultanas – are toxic to dogs and can be fatal
- Don’t let your dog eat wild mushrooms and toadstools, some of which are lethally poisonous
- Sweets and chewing gum are for people, not dogs. They often contain Xylitol, a sweetener found naturally in some food plants but a substance that’s very poisonous for dogs and can kill