While the dog days of summer may mean fun and relaxation for most people, they can be the most stressful time of the year for your dog. Fireworks, long car rides and the increased potential for thunderstorms can leave your pet yearning for colder weather.
Many dogs have something that causes them to feel anxious, and they can show their fear through a wide range of behaviors – from panting and pacing to having accidents in the house, getting stuck in small hiding places, or running into traffic.
A common trigger for many dogs during the summer can be fireworks – in fact, more dogs run away on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year. The flashes of light, sudden booming sounds and smell of sulfur can be overwhelming to their senses and result in total panic.
Taking your dog for a long walk before the fireworks begin will help to tire them out and calm them down. Keep your pet in an interior room with no windows and muffle the sounds outside with quiet music; you also may provide a travel kennel he or she can stay in to feel safe. Over time, you can desensitize your dog to the sound of fireworks by playing the recorded sound before positive activities such as eating, playing or going for a walk, gradually increasing the volume as you go.
With their changes in air pressure, strong winds and loud claps of thunder, summer thunderstorms can turn a normally carefree dog into a cowering mass of nerves. Even the presence of dark clouds may trigger an anxiety attack.
There is some debate over whether dog owners should actively comfort their pet. Some say offering soothing words may reinforce fearful behavior, while others feel it is okay to acknowledge your pet’s if you don’t make a huge fuss. Since dogs are pack animals, they look to their leader for clues on how to respond to a specific environment. Trying to engage your pet in play will let them know that you feel safe during the storm. Encouraging your dog to perform their favorite tricks for treats also can take their mind off the weather.
Some owners recommend the aptly named Thundershirt, a close-fitting garment that wraps around your dog and applies continuous pressure that can calm their nerves.
For many dogs, a ride in the car usually ends in a visit to the vet, so it’s understandable that travel can be stressful. If your dog is afraid to even jump into the car, start by getting in the back seat or cargo area with them and shower them with treats and praise. As they become more comfortable, start taking short drives around the neighborhood, ending in fun places – the dog park, pet store, or other doggie destination. Over time, increase the distance of your drives.
Soothing music or fresh air may also make your pet more comfortable, although the window should not be open far enough for your dog to stick its head out or jump from the car. And some dogs will feel more secure if they are restrained with a travel harness, crate or carrier.
If these methods fail, you may opt for natural solutions and herbal supplements, or even tranquilizers, to help calm your pet. But the key to success is patience as you help your best friend overcome their fears.