New Years How to calm a dog who is afraid of fireworks?

If your dog is afraid of fireworks, he may run to a corner. (©Photoboyko / AdobeStock)

It is often thought that if dogs fear fireworks, it is because they have better hearing than ours, which would make the noise unbearable to their ears. “If it was, all dogs would have done it fear of fireworks. But that is not the case, ”corrects Claude Béata, behavioral veterinarian.

“Being afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks doesn’t matter normal for a dog. We also have atavistic fears that allow us to protect ourselves. On the other hand, what is not normal, it’s a phobia. All dogs are therefore not affected by these pathological conditions – they are around one in three – which rarely occur in young people.

True phobias often arise after 3 years of age, the time of sensitization in cases of post-traumatic phobia. Therefore, it is not recommended to bring your dog watch a firework display, even to try to accustom him to this spectacle. “For most dogs, this is likely to be a phobic stimulus, ie a sensitizing experience that will cause subsequently a phobia. And with the lights, the crowd, the excitement, it’s very rare that it makes him happy. »

How does this phobia manifest itself?

The three ethological reactions of fear are surprise, escape and aggression, the first two being the most common. But not all dogs will react in the same way. “Certain phobogenic elements are registered in the collective memory of several species as being serious danger signs, to which some individuals will be more sensitive than others. Some dogs will therefore regard these sounds as simply worrying, others as terrorist. »

One can therefore observe very different manifestations in dogs afraid of fireworks: worry, alertness, sometimes with panting, shaking or excessive salivation. “Some will cling to their owners or react with inhibition, hiding in a corner, while others will go as far as destruction, aggression or desperate flight. Some animals will do anything to escape the noise that frightens them, even if it means harming themselves. »

How to calm him down?

If a scared dog comes for comfort with its owner, to stroke it is not necessarily the first reflex you have. “It is a very controversial point because it is believed that if the dog comes towards you and you stroke it at that moment, it risks confirm your fear. But we need to calm him down so we can give him a simple command, for example “sit down!” and if he obeys, we can reward it because he controlled himself despite the fear,” continues the vet.

If the dog prefers to hide in a corner where it feels protected, it can be left alone. Ideally, drive it in a noise-reducing room and where it will do no harm.

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Are there treatments?

In case of significant phobia, treatment prescribed by a veterinarian is the only way to improve his condition. “There are several products with calming and anxiolytic effects intended to treat this phobia of sounds and prevent gasping, diarrhea, drooling and calm the dog down a few hours. »

To moderate casessome over-the-counter supplements have also proven their effectiveness.

“Medical treatments can be punctual, e.g. at the time of July 14 and the first of the year. But often, phobia of loud noises is a sign of an anxiety condition that is present on a daily basis and needs to be treated with basic treatments. »

Claude BeataVeterinarian

Is desensitization effective?

It is possible to accustom your animal to classic phobic stimuli: there are especially CDs that reproduce the sounds which most often frighten dogs – vacuum cleaners, storms, thunder, fireworks… – and which can be emitted at a very low volume and then even louder, but this solution is generally inconclusive because the sound is rarely loud enough to scare them.

Another option: play therapy. For example, playing with your pet while another person detonates a firework in the distance to minimize the noise, but never stop playing.

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