As a dog trainer at Charlotte’s premiere dog training facility, The Dog Knowledge, I am shocked by the number of families that bring a dog to the 4th of July fireworks. The poor things try to get away from the loud bangs, but they can’t. Some of them look terrified. As a dog trainer, and a therapy dog and service dog trainer, when I see the panic on a dog’s face, it is really sad. With the 4th of July holiday on Friday, we would like to address what we feel as professional dog trainers might be helpful to dog owners to understand how likely their dog perceives this favorite American holiday.
All of us at The Dog Knowledge have personal dogs. While we have tried to expose our personal dogs to every noise and situation, as dog training professionals we know the signs to look for to determine our personal dog’s stress level. Fireworks, thunderstorms, cars backfiring, even the crash of a dropped pot are torture to some dogs. A dog that is “sound sensitive” reacts in a fearful manner to loud noises. Some sound sensitive dogs try to hide, others want to climb into their owner’s lap, and still others try to flee, to escape. If you have a sound sensitive dog, you know the agony of his fear.
Sound sensitivity is also called being `noise shy’ or `gun shy’. It can be either congenital or environmental. Some noise shy dogs are born that way, while others may undergo a frightening experience connected to a loud noise that thereafter causes them to associate the noise with the fear-producing event. A dog that is less than a year old might be going through their second fear period which happens around 8-10 months of age. While a dog of any age who has never shown signs of being noise sensitive can suddenly develop thunder phobia or fear of loud noises, dogs less than a year old are even more susceptible. As Charlotte’s most knowledgeable dog trainers we agree that the best thing you can do for your dog is to avoid having your dog join in Charlotte’s annual celebration.
Regardless of whether a dog is born with sensitivity to loud noises, or experiences something upsetting that he or she then associates with noise, there are some do’s and don’ts to make your dog more comfortable during a noisy event. Even dogs that don’t react fearfully to loud noises should be protected as much as possible from the potentially painful effects of noise, especially those as predictable as fireworks on July 4th. So take a little advice from the dog trainers at The Dog Knowledge and follow the guidelines we’ve compiled.
And remember that we have seen hundreds of dogs with dog training issues, fear issues, obedience issues, etc., we understand how traumatic the popping loud noises can be. For this reason, at The Dog Knowledge, we annually have a party time the night of the 4th of July. All the dog trainers are in attendance and we conduct an unexpected play time with all the training dogs that are overnighting with us for the holiday, playing music throughout the building. No training dogs, service dogs or boarding dogs return to their cottage until the dog trainers are certain that the fireworks are over. And just to be safe, we turn up the television in each cottage.
If you have any additional questions about how best to deal with your dog’s fear of loud noises, feel free to stop by The Dog Knowledge located off Wendover Road in Charlotte, NC and any one of the dog trainers and behaviorist on staff will be happy to offer helpful tips. Because we always love to talk “dog.”
Happy Independence Day!
In the last year, The Dog Knowledge and our non-profit subsidiary The Dog Knowledge Service Dog Foundation have been contacted by local newspapers, magazines, reporters, the Wounded Warrior Project and the Green Beret Foundation and in December, 2013 NBC’s America Now filmed at our facility for over 5 hours. The segment aired on Tuesday, February 25th at 9:00am, and is available online here.
Recently there have been stories written about the fact that you can buy an “online service vest” for your dog and take your dog into public places posing your dog as a “service dog.” As trainers of service dogs, we had to laugh at this discovery — this practice has been known to us for years and years!