Snap, Crackle, and Pop – Noise Nightmares for Dogs

Patriotic Americans in fireworks-friendly states can’t wait for July 4th. My dog Mac loves a good barbeque as much as the next hound, but when the pop, pop, pop of firecrackers begin, his tail tucks between his legs and he hurries to a hiding place. Noise phobias are common among dogs of all breeds.

As a pet owner, your reaction to the noise matters. Have you ever seen a toddler take a mild fall, and seven worried faces immediately surround the child and ask, “Are you okay?” The tot looks up at his adoring audience and bawls.

To lessen my dog’s reaction to fireworks or thunder, I either ignore the noise completely or give him a favorite toy or a hollow bone stuffed with American cheese and a few bits of kibble. Some dogs, however, are not placated by treats and distractions, and just need to hide. Try to refrain from comforting the dog too much, since the panicked pooch may interpret your soothing as approval of his fearful reaction. Offering a windowless guest bath or walk-in closet for your dog to hide in can create a safe haven, especially if you add a little classical music. A radio will do if your bathroom is too small for a string quartet.

To preempt fireworks fear, try desensitizing your dog to the popping sound. Place bubble wrap under a towel, pop one or two bubbles, and instantly toss a few meaty treats in his direction. Do this several times until your dog is anticipating the treat after the pop. Now ditch the towel so the pop is louder. You may see furrowed eyebrows and a lower tail, but as long as he is not running for cover, you’re doing fine. The same type of exercise can work with a dog that fears thunder. Bump your fist on the side of your clothes dryer to mimic distant thunder, and toss a treat. With a bit of training and a little luck, the next noisy night may not be such a big deal for your favorite furry friend.