Category Archives: Behavior and Training

Managing Your Dog’s Noise Anxiety

July 4 is nearly here, and chances are at least 40 percent of our canine patients will experience anxiety during the celebratory fireworks—the most common trigger for dogs with noise aversion.

Fireworks are a source of suffering for 81% of dogs diagnosed with noise aversion. That’s why the busiest day of the year for intake of runaway dogs in animal shelters is July 5 and why we strongly recommend that you not take your pet to any holiday celebration that includes a fireworks display.

Unlike most people, noise-averse pets do not enjoy fireworks, and may become anxious enough to break free and run away. Trying to find a lost pet after dark in a large, crowded public space is a challenge we don’t want any of our clients to face!

Summer thunderstorms can trigger similar fears, causing panic and dangerous reactions, destruction of furniture and fixtures, self-inflicted injuries and frantic escapes.

Cats can be noise-averse, too, but their fear responses are usually not as pronounced. A cat may retreat to a favorite hiding place when frightened by noise, but otherwise appear unfazed. So most of our clients’ concerns about noise anxiety involve dogs.

Diagnosing Your Dog’s Noise Aversion

Illustrations Showing Noise Aversion Symptoms

This brief animated video from the manufacturer of Sileo, a drug we prescribe to treat noise aversion, shows 13 symptoms to help you determine if your dog is noise averse, The company also offers a checklist you can download and print to diagnose your dog. (Hit the back button on your browser to return to this page.)

Home Remedies for Noise Aversion

Home remedies we recommend in mild to moderate cases include playing soft music to mask the noise and carrying on as usual. It’s tempting to comfort a fearful dog, but a better approach is to signal all is well by engaging in normal behavior. A little cuddling is fine, but anything you can do lighten the mood is most helpful. If you can, just be present to your dog.

You may create a “safe spot” for your pet in a windowless interior room, like a closet or bathroom, complete with bed and blankets, where he or she can feel secure while riding out the storm or fireworks display.

Making favorite treats and toys available can help—especially toys that might distract, like a peanut-butter-filled Kong toy. In administering treats, just be careful not to reward fearful behavior.

Thundershirts, which work by applying gentle, constant pressure to the pet’s body, similar to swaddling a baby, are also popular and have helped many dogs and cats.

Helpful Medical Treatment

If noise makes your dog anxious, and home remedies aren’t working as well as you’d like,  we can help.

For more severe cases, there are drugs we can prescribe to reduce anxiety and keep your dog relaxed and safe during fireworks, storms and other noisy conditions.

The drugs we most often prescribe to alleviate anxiety symptoms are Xanax and Sileo, and for the best effect, we recommend administering them 30 minutes prior to the anticipated noise.

If home remedies are not effective and you would like to see if drug therapy is indicated, the first step is an office visit to assess the severity of the anxiety and discuss treatment options with you.

While we can’t promise a quieter summer, we may well be able to provide a calmer, more relaxed summer for your noise-averse dog. If you’d like our help, call to schedule an appointment today.

Reduce the Risk of Dog Bites

We’ve discovered a great web site filled with lots of free resources to educate children–and adults, too–about how to reduce the risk of being bitten by a dog.

The web site belongs to a non-profit organization called Doggone Safe, founded to help educate children about how to recognize negative emotional signals in the body language of dogs.

Hugs May Be Stressful for Dogs

We came across a Psychology Today blog post in which author Stanley Coren suggests that most dogs find hugs stressful.

The research involved analysis of photographs posted on the Internet. More than 80% of dogs being hugged showed signs of discomfort, stress or anxiety.

We encourage all our dog-owning clients–especially those with children in the household–to read the article. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort when being hugged, it’s a good idea to find other ways to show your affection.

Why Do Cats Do What They Do?

Why does your cat behave as he or she does? This 5-minute TED-Ed video, called “Why do cats act so weird?” has some answers.

Written by Tony Buffington, a veterinarian and professor with a special interest in cats,  the animated video covers a number of common feline behaviors, tracing them back to their evolutionary roots. It’s fun to watch, too!

Ian Dunbar on Dog-Friendly Dog Training

We came across this very insightful TED* talk by Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, dog trainer, animal behaviorist and author. Over the past several decades, Dr. Dunbar has written many books and DVDs about puppy and dog behavior and training, including AFTER You Get Your Puppy, How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks and the SIRIUS® Puppy Training video.

For much more information and free resources by Dr. Dunbar, including a comprehensive online dog training textbook, visit Dog Star Daily.

*TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged.

Fireworks and Pets

With Independence Day fast approaching, we want to remind owners to protect their pets from exposure to fireworks.

  • Fireworks are noisy! While most humans enjoy the lights and sounds of a fireworks display, many pets experience the noise as unnerving or even terrorizing.
  • Lighted fireworks can cause severe burns and trauma to the face and paws of a curious pet.
  • Unlit fireworks can be swallowed, obstructing your pet’s digestive tract and introducing potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

We know of at least one local July 4 fireworks display this year at Arbuckle Acres Park, and we’re sure there will be many families celebrating the day with fireworks in their own backyards.

We encourage you to protect your pet from fireworks this July 4!

Preventing Dog Bites

Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the third full week of May each year. The goal is to teach people about preventing dog bites.

The AVMA’s web site has a page dedicated to dog bite prevention.  We encourage you to visit the page and learn more about how you can lower the risk that your dog will bite. There are also tips on how to avoid having a dog bite you or someone you love.

Also from the AVMA is this video about preventing dog bites. This is video has dog bite statistics as well as specific tips for avoiding being bitten. We hope you’ll watch it with your kids.