by Julia Levitt
Summer is what many of us wait for in Michigan. With summer comes not only the positives of getting outside and enjoying the warm weather but the concern about thunderstorms. The noise associated with thunderstorms and the anxiety it causes in our pets can be troubling. This anxiety-ridden season peaks when a day of celebration for us becomes a day of terror for some dogs—yes, I’m talking about Independence Day fireworks.
I view the issue of anxiety and fear about storms and fireworks in two divisions. The first is the actual physical response to storms. Many dogs feel the drop in barometric pressure. They become unsettled. Often they look for a dark, quiet place like under a bed or table.
The second issue is more complicated. If a dog is experiencing concern about other things— the dog is afraid of loud noises, afraid to go for walks, afraid to ride in the car— I have found this is an animal who experiences anxiety in general. What we don’t realize is that fireworks are another example of that fear.
Many people find different things to alleviate the stress for their dog. “Thundershirts” are very popular but as with any tool they must be used correctly. Many companies have herbal formulas that are calming to an anxious dog. Lavender is often used as a calming fragrance. The most important point I am going to emphasize— and remember this comes from a trainer’s view point—is to recognize the problem before it occurs. Do not wait until July 3rd to do something about an anxious dog.
Julia Levitt is the founder of In Harmony Dog Training and Ann Arbor Animal Hospital’s “Miss Harmony” for dogs! She is available to help your dog be a better canine citizen, and answers questions about Canine Behavior here on our blog from time to time.