Helping Your Dog With Firework Fears: The Link Between Pain and Noise Sensitivity
The 4th of July may be a huge celebration in America but for a vast number of dogs and owners, it spells a time of anxiety and trauma. An estimated 23 million dogs in the US are affected by the fear of fireworks. Although there are many reasons why dogs become noise-phobic, if your dog suddenly becomes fearful but has not had a traumatic experience or is getting on in years and develops anxiety then you need to look into pain or discomfort being the cause of the problem.
One of the major contributing factors to noise sensitivity is arthritis. Most people think of arthritis as something that affects only elderly dogs but this is far from the truth. By the time your dog is seven years old, he most likely has a touch of arthritis somewhere; but younger dogs who have picked up injuries or have an orthopaedic issue like hip or elbow dysplasia will already be affected. Couple this with the way we exercise and manage our dogs – ball chucking and excessive and repetitive jumping like getting in and out of the car, the flooring in our homes and obesity, the likelihood is he will have some discomfort in his body that will contribute to the fear of noises. Think about when you are in pain, your noise tolerance goes down, you don’t necessarily want to be touched, and you feel stiff and sore after exercise which is worse when you are cold.
Signs of pain – these can be varied and depends on how stoic your dog is but look out for:
Changes in how he walks or stands.
Reductants to jump. For example in or out of the car, on to the bed or sofa.
Changes in exercise tolerance.
Stiffness after exercise or sleep.
Reluctant to be touched in a certain area or be snappy towards you or other dogs.
Restless, not seeming to be able to get comfortable. This might be seen as pacing, especially at night.
He may sleep more.
There may be changes in posture or muscle.
An area of the body might be licked at obsessively.
These are just some of the signs to look for but if in any doubt the first professional to contact is your vet. It can be hard for them to pinpoint pain however so help them out by noting down any changes you have seen, taking a video of how your dog moves and highlight any injuries or ailments he might be suffering from. If your vet is struggling to find the source of discomfort, why not ask for a painkiller trail to see if it helps. Often the aid of other canine professionals can help, not only with diagnoses but also management of the condition. Your noise fearful dog may not look like he is in pain but with close observations from a canine professional like a Tellington TTouch practitioner, chiropractor or physiotherapist, areas of concern can be identified and your dog helped.
Once your dog is more comfortable you may find the fear of fireworks subsides naturally but if not there is a help to be found from a certified Tellington TTouch practitioner: www.ttouch.com (US) www.ttouchtteam.co.uk (UK) or from our book "HELP! My Dog is Scared of Fireworks" by Toni Shelbourne and Karen Bush
Animal Behaviourist, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, Real Dog Yoga Instructor & Author
Toni has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK.
In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
Over the last two decades, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust's international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and blogs. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with co-author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled HELP! My Dog is…. Titles include, HELP! My Dog's Scared of Fireworks, HELP! My Dog doesn't Travel Well in the Car, HELP! My Dog is Destroying the Garden and HELP! My Dog has a Canine Compulsive Disorder. All are available in paperback and eBook format on Amazon. Toni and Karen have many more titles planned under the banner of Skinny Dog Books – named as they both own sighthounds and the books are small and concise.