Additional Advice to Give to Pet OwnersPage 11 of 13
In addition to use of pheromones, building a ‘safe spot’ or den and possibly the use of medication to deal with noise phobia in dogs, here’s some additional advice for your pet owners:
Advice for actions to take during an episode
Pet owners should ignore fearful behaviors and try to act as normal as possible.
Most pet owners want to make their dog feel better and pay extra attention to them when they are frightened. Changes in the owner’s behavior can become a cue for the dog that predicts “something bad is getting ready to happen!”.
Pet owners can provide distractions during noise events such as playing games, providing chew toys, etc.
Take preemptive measures
Talk to new pet owners about preventing sound fears and phobias by exposing puppies to a variety of mild sounds and stimuli while they are young. Always provide puppies with positive reinforcement in the form of special treats when they experience new and potentially frightening things.
Include different types of noises, lights, handling and movement.
Habituation during early development will help prevent many fears and phobias.
Puppies, especially those adopted from a shelter, should also be fitted with a pheromone collar as soon as they are adopted.
Audio based programs can be effective for long-term treatment of noise phobias.
Before starting therapy, it is important to ensure that the dog is healthy and has no cognitive impairment.
Behavioral therapy should only be carried out when the chance of exposure to noises is small.
It typically takes around 6 weeks to begin to see an improvement and should therefore be started well ahead of anticipated noise events such as thunderstorms and fireworks. For firework and thunderstorm phobias behavioral therapy is best introduced in the fall, but may vary region to region.
In all cases desensitization should be followed by counter-conditioning in order to consolidate behavioral improvement.
Note that a poorly managed or inappropriate therapy may make the problem worse. Encourage pet owners to adhere to the recommended plan.