Dogs Fear of Lightening Storms and Fireworks

Many dogs do not like the sound of lightning or fireworks. Madison does not like either but to her there is no difference between the two. Both make her feel anxious, nervous and uncomfortable. When there is either lightning or fireworks she tends to find a quiet spot which is usually under a table or in a secluded corner of the house. She will shake and pant a little until the noise has stopped or the storm has passed.

We try to redirect her attention by giving her a ball or chew to distract her from the noise. We avoid giving her “pity” attention, even though she is pulling at our heart strings and all we really want to do is cuddle and sooth her. Using distration methods assists to snap her out of ‘obsessing on the sound’ rather than hugging her, which is often percieved as a reward by dogs.

Luckily Madison is not a ‘runner’ as many dogs are during lightning storms and fireworks. I once rescued a very exhausted German Shepherd dog running in the street a day after a lightning storm. I took him home gave him a drink, rang his owner who was delighted that he had been found. Their German Shepherd had managed to escape out of their gate and during the night had run over twenty kilometers to where I had found him. I was over joyed at being able to return him to his owners and thankful that he had legible tags on his dog collar.

I have seen many dogs roaming lost on the streets after lightning storms or fireworks. I have managed to rescue many of them and return them to their owners or get the local council to return the dog to its owner.

Over Christmas and New Year we need to be very aware of making sure our homes are escape proof for our dogs. Check your fences for holes and gaps in fence panelling. A frightened dog can manage to get out of areas where it would normally not be able to get out of. Try to get down at dog height and look at your fence from your dog’s point of view.

A good tip is to add some wire to the top of your gate or fence and make the wire slightly concave in towards where the dog would look up at it. The reason for this is when the dog looks up it will be hard for them to fathom how to get over the fence or gate with the wire overhang. To a dog’s eye it will mean they need to hang upside down to get over the fence, dogs don’t tend to like having to scale a fence upside down.

If you have a dog who is noise sensitive perhaps consider making a note in your calendar of when the season’s fireworks will be so that you could arrange to be home on those days or find a family member or a sitter to stay with the dogs on those nights.

If your dog is familiar and comfortable with a crate then you can always place the dog in there while the fireworks are lighting up the sky.

Another good idea is to run or walk your dog in the early afternoon of the day the fireworks are sheduled. A good exercise session will help to make your dog feel relaxed and tired and if you are lucky they maybe so tired for a big run or walk that they sleep right through all the firework explosions.

There are many techniques to help you desensitise your dog to lightening and fireworks. Some people record the noise of lightening and play it back at a low level during the day for several days to allow the dog/dogs to get used to the sound. I
f you do this make sure your dog is doing happy activities while listening to the sounds. The dog needs to affiliate the sounds with happy experiences in it’s life.
This all takes time but if you have the time and commitment it is a good redirection for noise sensitive dogs.

Just remember to be prepared, make sure your house and back yard area is dog escape proof. Note down when the season fireworks are and be thoughtful of where you will be on those nights, if your home make sure your dog is safe and if you are out organise either a sitter or take your best furry friend to your best friends for the night. They are too precious to loose and with a bit of an effort on our part we can help them be safe this festive season.

Creative Director – Catherine Dorrestyn