Ringing In the Summer With Things That Go "BOOM!" - How to Help Your Dog Cope With Fireworks and Thunder
Desensitize her to these noises by practicing frequently:
It's true, you can't control the weather or when your neighbors are setting off fireworks. But buying a CD of sounds that include fireworks and thunderstorms will give you a chance to practice exposure to these noises more frequently in small slices that you can control (when it isn't really happening full-throttle). When your dog is calm and comfortable, play only a few seconds of the CD on low volume. The entire time that the noise is playing, provide her with lots of calm praise and some high value treats (you may even need to go so far as cooked chicken, hamburger or even string cheese if the store-bought treats or natural dried jerky won't do). When the CD is turned off, the praise and treats stop.
This will help pair the not-so-good thing ("BOOM!") with something very rewarding (the best treats and praise!). If you do this frequently (a few times a day for 3-10 seconds each time), it will start to seem like no big deal to your dog. Gradually, as she gets more comfortable, you can increase the volume and duration of playing the CD until it is closer to that of a full-blown storm/fireworks show. While dogs can also sense the change in barometric pressure that leads up to a storm (and there's no way for us to simulate that), if you at least desensitize her to the sound when there isn't a storm, she will be better off when storms do occur.
Plan ahead and prepare for a thunderstorm or fireworks display by:
During a thunderstorm or fireworks, don't coddle but do provide some calm, confident support:
Many dogs may feel comforted just by being close to you, so letting your dog hang out near you may give her the "buddy" she may need to know she isn't facing the scary stuff alone. It's important we don't make a bigger deal for your dog than the storm/display already is, so don't coddle her and feed into her frenzied state, but providing occasional calm verbal reassurance can help her understand that what's happening is not a big deal.
And who doesn't like a massage to de-stress? I wouldn't stroke her constantly, but adding in some of the following touches may help relax your dog during the storm/display. There's a method called T-Touch which I've implemented before - you can learn more about it here and probably even find videos on YouTube. A few simple methods:
Maria Huntoon, CBCC-KA