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Fireworks Phobia turned much worst...


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I felt I needed to start a new thread about my dog, Levi, who is petrified of fireworks. This weekend has been awful. We were out during the afternoon at the creek and some kids lit a couple fireworks which caused Levi to drop the ball and run into a bush. Luckily he waited for me to come over. That night we were at my in-laws and right before I was about to put him in the basement some fireworks went off and he got scared but not panicked. That night while at home we used his Thundershirt and it seemed to help while inside the house. We took him out after they were over and he was normal while outside.

 

Last night fireworks went off for 4+ hours (we live near Lake Erie) and things went downhill fast. He hid most of the night and when we took him for a walk at 7pm (long before dark) he heard a few fireworks and dragged us home (we ran so he wouldn't hurt his throat, he was pulling so hard). We tried twice later that night to take him out to pee but fireworks went off both times. He falls to the ground and army crawls/claws his way to the door. He is out of his mind (will not focus, listen, take food, nothing) So, he went 12 hours without peeing.

 

This morning my boyfriend took him for his morning walk. A truck went by and the brakes screeched loudly and Levi bolted back and they had to run 1/2 mile back home. This afternoon I took him out for a walk and of course, someone somewhere lit some fireworks and we had to run home. Just now I tried walking him in a different neighborhood and someone was having construction done on their home and we heard some (pretty quiet) banging noises and Levi bolted back to the car (scared but not too scared to stop and pee on a bush). I then took him to a huge soccer field we play frisbee at and 2 throws later a popping noise (maybe someones car) went off and Levi ran about 200 feet back to the car (thankfully!) Frisbee is the love of his life and if he won't play frisbee then something is really wrong.

 

My dog is now afraid to be outside and is spooked and at times petrified by noises similar to fireworks. We can't walk him or trust him off leash so now he has had no exercise today. I gave him an L-Theanine pill since it was suggested in my other post but we need professional help. Even when we got back home today he dragged me inside from the car.

 

Anyone have any idea what I should do now? I think 4 days of fireworks has been too much and has sent him over the edge. Am I suppose to medicate him with Xanax the rest of his life and live in fear of all booming, popping, cracking noises and having him run off if we aren't near the car/home? Any behaviorist I should know about? My happy playful energetic Border Collie is a scared shell of himself now. We need help!

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He had no noise phobia before this. He was afraid of loud cars and trucks coming up behind us on walks but being a former outside dog I assumed it was because he was never exposed to walks/cars before. He easily got over it in a few weeks with positive associations.

 

We just took him out now and it took 5 minutes to get him to pee. He pulls hard on the leash and crawls low to the ground. We heard no loud noises this time and he appears to be afraid of the outdoors in general now. I just don't want to make things worse.

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waffles, I'm going through the exact same thing with my pit mix. He was perfectly fine with noises last year, and now he is terrified of fireworks, thunder, loud noises, not so loud noises, etc... and to make things worse, we traveled 3 hours over the weekend to see family, and he is now extremely anxious in car rides... which he used to love. I've also had a hard time getting him to go out to the bathroom recently with the fireworks - he's been holding it 12+ hours as well.

I bought him a Thundershirt, but it doesn't seem to help. He breathes probably heavy enough to give himself a heart attack and he pants/drools, shakes, and is extremely clingy. This past weekend he was starting to rub off on my border collie - she was acting just like him. I'm worried she is going to continue with this and I'll have 2 freaked out dogs. I have a prescription for my pit for xanax from the vet; I've already filled it twice since I called less than a month ago, and like you said... I don't want to have to be on the edge about whether to give him meds or not and at what time. I've tried the toys, food as a distraction, the music, the kenneling, desensitizing, Thundershirt... none of which seem to help.

I feel your pain... Sorry I can't be much of a help, but just know that you aren't alone in this. :unsure:

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I am sorry to hear this. We are having similar issues with our Nellie right now due to the amount of neighborhood fireworks being set off. She will go outside on her own, but it is basically out to do her business and then she wants back in. She loves our neighbor and will play with her as long as she will throw the frisbee and she wouldn't really go outside for her either.

 

We are still having people firing off fireworks now and apparently have found some larger firecrackers, since something scared her enough that she had to hide in the closet under all of the Christmas decorations and old computers. Unfortunately, she had surgery last week and we are trying to keep her still so she doesn't pull her stitches out.

 

If he is like Nellie has been in the past, once things settle down, he should relax more outside and get back to normal. I would recommend keeping him on leash or at least a long line so you will be able to catch him easier if he does bolt. We were in St Louis a few weeks ago and when the baseball game ended, they set off a barrage of cannons. We thought we would never be able to get hold of her, but she stopped in the middle of the road when the cannons started.

 

I hope things quiet down around your place soon. I think there are a lot of dogs that could use a break from all of these things.

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He had no noise phobia before this. He was afraid of loud cars and trucks coming up behind us on walks but being a former outside dog I assumed it was because he was never exposed to walks/cars before. He easily got over it in a few weeks with positive associations.

 

How old is he now?

 

We went through this same thing with Dean. We had a lot of thunderstorms all around the same time and he started to generalize the anxiety to every noise he heard.

 

He needed medication. He is on a year round medication. It doesn't make it so he's not noise phobic, but it gives him the ability to recover after these sorts of things.

 

It was quiet here this year and I am deeply grateful. I've been in the same boat, though. One year people were exploding things in the neighborhood from mid-June until mid-July. It was awful and Dean was a mess.

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My ancient JRT is the same way only she is petrified of thunder or anything else that goes boom. I was convinced she was going into shock last night (big storm on the 4th) I kept checking her gums. Our biggest problem is that she will take off running blindly through a storm if she can get out. I've had to retrieve her probably 200 times from the subdivision across the highway--crazy dog. In the South, storms are a daily occurance in the summer. We're trying anti-anxiety meds, hope that will make a difference.

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This is kind of a long process, bit not hopeless.

 

Anti anxiety meds from the vet would be awesOme. NOT sedatives.

 

For the beginning of the therapy, I do use an herbal combination that is calming, bedtime meds like hops and l-tryptophan.

 

Most anxious dogs actually don't get sleepy on these, just mellow. Instead of explosive reactions to stimuli, the dog has much lower adrenaline "highs". They stay responsive to other things in their surroundings.

 

That's what YOU need.

 

You don't have to work on every trigger. Just pick one that is convenient. Preferably somewhat predictable, like thunderstorms.

 

First exposure. Anti-anxiety meds, the max the vet will allow (I use valerian at double the human dose). Plus a good quality "sleepy time" med.

 

Prepare some of the most awesome treats and distractions you can think of. Roasted chicken. Stinky cheese. Liverwurst. Favorite toys. Sit or lay on the floor with him.

 

Make sure no other pets are butting in on this time.

 

It's likely you will use none of it. It's fine. I do yoga on the floor with the dog. The only thing I won't let that dog do is find a happy place away from me.

 

They say ignore the dog, don't comfort him. Poppycock. Now we sell tons of thundershirts, calming pheromones, and pharmaceuticals.

 

No hugging and baby talk, I'll agree with that. But firm massage and encouraging him to curl up with you will not make it worse. Honest.

 

I've done it with two livestock guardian dogs and both of them still prefer to be with their sheep, now that they are over the worst of their trauma.

 

Dint force anything. Each episode, repeat the same meds, picnic on the floor, offer those treats and diversions. At some point, you'll get a response. Then more.

 

When the responses are smooth and reliable, drop the sleepy meds.

 

When he actually starts getting excited to see the "noise phobia" gear come out, you can start reducing the anti anxiety meds, carefully. But you will want to stay on the meds at least a year until the brain gets in the hsbit of thinking in Yhe new pathways.

 

Take with a grain of Salk. I've only developed this method on my own, so I'm sure I'm just all wrong by pet dog training sysndards. I just know I've seen many dogs go from worse symptoms than you description.

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This is kind of a long process, bit not hopeless.

 

Anti anxiety meds from the vet would be awesOme. NOT sedatives.

 

For the beginning of the therapy, I do use an herbal combination that is calming, bedtime meds like hops and l-tryptophan.

 

Most anxious dogs actually don't get sleepy on these, just mellow. Instead of explosive reactions to stimuli, the dog has much lower adrenaline "highs". They stay responsive to other things in their surroundings.

 

That's what YOU need.

 

You don't have to work on every trigger. Just pick one that is convenient. Preferably somewhat predictable, like thunderstorms.

 

First exposure. Anti-anxiety meds, the max the vet will allow (I use valerian at double the human dose). Plus a good quality "sleepy time" med.

 

Prepare some of the most awesome treats and distractions you can think of. Roasted chicken. Stinky cheese. Liverwurst. Favorite toys. Sit or lay on the floor with him.

 

Make sure no other pets are butting in on this time.

 

It's likely you will use none of it. It's fine. I do yoga on the floor with the dog. The only thing I won't let that dog do is find a happy place away from me.

 

They say ignore the dog, don't comfort him. Poppycock. Now we sell tons of thundershirts, calming pheromones, and pharmaceuticals.

 

No hugging and baby talk, I'll agree with that. But firm massage and encouraging him to curl up with you will not make it worse. Honest.

 

I've done it with two livestock guardian dogs and both of them still prefer to be with their sheep, now that they are over the worst of their trauma.

 

Dint force anything. Each episode, repeat the same meds, picnic on the floor, offer those treats and diversions. At some point, you'll get a response. Then more.

 

When the responses are smooth and reliable, drop the sleepy meds.

 

When he actually starts getting excited to see the "noise phobia" gear come out, you can start reducing the anti anxiety meds, carefully. But you will want to stay on the meds at least a year until the brain gets in the hsbit of thinking in Yhe new pathways.

 

Take with a grain of Salk. I've only developed this method on my own, so I'm sure I'm just all wrong by pet dog training sysndards. I just know I've seen many dogs go from worse symptoms than you description.

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I gave up and just use xanax. It works. And is so easy.

 

A couple of my dogs were just awful and if I gave them xanax they just didn't care any more. It was like a miracle.

 

I just didn't have any luck with the other stuff.

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It sounds like the cumulative effect of several days of fireworks has gotten to him. Secret also became a little hypersensitive over the past few days -- she went to hide in the garage last night when we were playing outside due to a noise that normally wouldn't have bothered her. But she's come to expect scary stuff since Friday, so she went to hide.

 

The Thundershirt helps Secret a lot. By the time Monday rolled around she actually stood up and waited for me to put her shirt on before she went to the bathroom to hide. With the Thundershirt, she tends to come out on her own in less than five minutes and is able to mostly sleep through it.

 

If you have a TS, I would suggest using it a bit more than usual for the next week or two. Anti-anxiety meds would not hurt, either. I am guessing that once things settle down and all the idiots stop lighting off fireworks every night, Levi will start to get better. I would probably avoid walking in the p.m. hours for now, as it's far more likely that someone will light something off and push Levi back again.

 

I hate this time of the year.

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This is kind of a long process, bit not hopeless.

 

Anti anxiety meds from the vet would be awesOme. NOT sedatives.

 

For the beginning of the therapy, I do use an herbal combination that is calming, bedtime meds like hops and l-tryptophan.

 

Most anxious dogs actually don't get sleepy on these, just mellow. Instead of explosive reactions to stimuli, the dog has much lower adrenaline "highs". They stay responsive to other things in their surroundings.

 

That's what YOU need.

 

You don't have to work on every trigger. Just pick one that is convenient. Preferably somewhat predictable, like thunderstorms.

 

First exposure. Anti-anxiety meds, the max the vet will allow (I use valerian at double the human dose). Plus a good quality "sleepy time" med.

 

Prepare some of the most awesome treats and distractions you can think of. Roasted chicken. Stinky cheese. Liverwurst. Favorite toys. Sit or lay on the floor with him.

 

Make sure no other pets are butting in on this time.

 

It's likely you will use none of it. It's fine. I do yoga on the floor with the dog. The only thing I won't let that dog do is find a happy place away from me.

 

They say ignore the dog, don't comfort him. Poppycock. Now we sell tons of thundershirts, calming pheromones, and pharmaceuticals.

 

No hugging and baby talk, I'll agree with that. But firm massage and encouraging him to curl up with you will not make it worse. Honest.

 

I've done it with two livestock guardian dogs and both of them still prefer to be with their sheep, now that they are over the worst of their trauma.

 

Dint force anything. Each episode, repeat the same meds, picnic on the floor, offer those treats and diversions. At some point, you'll get a response. Then more.

 

When the responses are smooth and reliable, drop the sleepy meds.

 

When he actually starts getting excited to see the "noise phobia" gear come out, you can start reducing the anti anxiety meds, carefully. But you will want to stay on the meds at least a year until the brain gets in the hsbit of thinking in Yhe new pathways.

 

Take with a grain of Salk. I've only developed this method on my own, so I'm sure I'm just all wrong by pet dog training sysndards. I just know I've seen many dogs go from worse symptoms than you description.

 

I think your advice is spot on. And, imo, the sooner this dog gets help the better.

 

To the OP: Your dog had a very unfortunate re-wiring of his reactions to normal scary stuff by the GD fireworks (oh, how I hate fireworks) and you will have to work with that. The longer he practices these abnormal reactions to every day sounds, the harder it will be to change them.

 

I think what Irena outlined is awesome, and you could probably get more hands on help from a vet behaviorist. I do think it sounds like you would really benefit from meds so you are going to need to get a vet on board asap, and sometimes its hard to get a regular vet to understand what is happening, so you may need a report/referral from a behaviorist to get your vet to prescribe the meds.

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These are wonderful suggestions, some we have already started doing. I do have a Thundershirt and it does help him while he is inside, along with a raw bone (something he has never had). On the 4th and even Tuesday night he was acting pretty normal inside (not in his crate all day, able to eat and play). Yesterday I gave him his first L-Theanine pill and by the evening he appear completely normal inside (with his TS on too).

 

The biggest issue is taking him outside. It does seem that he now associates it mostly with our property. Last night we drove him down the road and he acted 80% normal and was able to go to the bathroom. This morning we gave him another L-Theanine pill and my boyfriend walked him for 50min with no issue. Just now we went to the park to play frisbee and he was fine but earlier when we took him out the front door he acted petrified.

 

So, we are seeing improvements and right now the biggest issue is just being on our property. We haven't heard a "scary noise" yet today so that is good.

 

I also agree that next year we are going to avoid this situation the best we can by putting him in my Mothers basement for a few days in the evenings/days surrounding the 4th, she also lives in a town where there are rarely any fireworks.

 

I will definitely get a prescription from my vet for next year though! Or, if I don't see a big improvement in the next few days I will call.

 

Also, someone asked how old he was and he will be 3 sometime this summer. We have had him since last September and he never showed any type of noise sensitivity or fear before.

 

It is so nice to know we are not the only ones going crazy during this holiday! Now I know that medication is necessary (I really didn't understand just how bad it could get) and avoidance too. I would rather he spent a few days mostly in a basement (or boarding in a far away place) than go through this situation again!

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Also, someone asked how old he was and he will be 3 sometime this summer. We have had him since last September and he never showed any type of noise sensitivity or fear before.

 

This showed up in Dean when he was between 2 and 3, as well. That's why I was wondering.

 

I wish I could tell you it's probably just a phase, but it may well be something you will need to manage throughout his life.

 

But the good news is there are medication and management options. My dream is to have a house with a basement for Dean to go to when there are fireworks and thunderstorms. Doubt it will happen in his lifetime, but you never know!

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One of my mantras now is, if your dog is having an anxious moment, or hour, drop down to your dog's level. Assuming you physically cN, of course.

 

From there you are more of a comforting peer, the strong, unconcerned role model. It's also easier to sense subtle gradations in your dog's stress levels.

 

The latter is super important. When I massage for stress relief, I work first on the jaw muscles. If the dog is drooling or just doing a lot of nose licking, I gently praise for any swallowing.

 

Likewise, if I am sitting beside a dog I can feel and hear other calming signals, or reduction in stress symptoms, without having to stare.

 

I can also casually offer or play with interesting treats or toys during long desensitization sessions

without begging for the dog's attention.

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I did do some massaging this weekend with him. I called him out of his crate and got him to do a deep sigh and I felt like he really did calm down a bit. I then gave him his new bone and he seemed unconcerned with the outside noises.

 

We had a great 45 minute walk just now with no issues. When we came back onto our property he was normal, same thing after we got back from the park playing frisbee. Obviously being in that zen like state after exercising is helping him be outside on our property. I am now more hopeful that this will pass with time until next year. I was so hopeless yesterday. It felt like our entire world changed but I am seeing progress now.

 

Rebecca- thank you for your help. I feel much more prepared for next year now!

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