In the early hours of the morning, we were awakened by clashes of Thor’s hammer. The light display that danced across our room was beautiful and strangely comforting. We both love thunderstorms (at a safe distance). We are also blessed with two dogs who are not bothered by the bolts splitting and crackling overhead.
But unfortunately for many dogs, storms are terrifying and noise phobia is a very real problem. Some hide but some become destructive. Noise phobia, with thunderstorms and fireworks, is a common problem and the mainstream solution is either sedation or even euthanasia. But there are alternatives.
I recently worked with a dog with noise phobia. He was able to sense a coming storm, as dogs do, and hours before its arrival would hide. For six months we used Australian Bush Flower Essences to help with his noise phobia and fear aggression with intact dogs.
Our goal was to bring down his sensitivity. While he may not (or may) be best friends with intact dogs one day, we just wanted him to be calm on approach and slowly decrease the distance between him and the other dogs.
Overall, the owner was quite pleased. Her dog is much calmer in general and during storms and even more affectionate towards the family. They still give him Emergency essence before the storm for extra help. This essence (or Bach Rescue Remedy) was suggested for the owner to help with her own fears from previous incidents. Her dog would pick up on her fear and insecurity, magnifying his own. The beauty of flower essences is that it not only helps the dogs but their owners as oftentimes the issue comes from the people themselves.
For Creamy, I do sometimes play calming music as she has a touch of separation anxiety. Studies have shown that certain types of classical music is calming for dogs (and humans). Sue Raimond has been studying the effects of harp and has coined the term cytocymatics, “which indicates how sound – specifically vibrations of harp music – affects cells.” Her studies include not only dogs but other animals, like cats, wolves, and gorillas.
I have not used other methods but have heard great things about the body wrap. To be honest, I’m not sure why it works but the feedback has been fantastic. Some people say it helps the dog to feel more in its body, which is more grounding. Some say the constant pressure and stimuli allow the nerve receptors damaged by previous trauma to re-adjust and allow a more “normal” reaction. You can use t-shirts but available commercially is the Anxiety Wrap, which is supposed to work on pressure points to induce calm.
I think the testimonials on these methods warrant another look at what’s possible and available to help our dogs with noise phobia and other fears. Sedating a dog is not only tricky with the timing but doesn’t help improve your dog’s response and emotional health nor your own peace of mind. I found a great article by the Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue, that gives information on various methods. Do speak to you vet about any suggested medication like melatonin.