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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Firework phobia

I am at my wits' end, my dog Max suffers terribly from loud noises phobia, eg fireworks, thunder etc. He is 5 years old and is a rescue collie cross.

We have tried pherenomes and rescue remedies, a thunder shirt, desensitizing, Tellington Ttouch, Zylkelene, diazapan, Acp, and Xanax. He exhibits all the signs of stress/anxiety, has the tablets an hour before the fireworks, send him to sleep but he wakes on the first bang and is inconsolable for 5 or 6 hours until he falls asleep exhausted and sleeps for ages, but still wakes at the slightest sound and it all starts again.

We have told our vets that money is no object. What he needs is a sedative/tranquiliser to make him sleepy and something to keep him asleep. We do not want him paralyzed without being asleep. I do not ask for this lightly, I very much prefer homeopathic medicines but I will consider anything , his heart rate is so fast I am afraid it will just give out or have a lasting effect. He really is so traumatised we have considered having him put down rather than suffer.

Wendy Nutland


  1. Poor dog and poor you. I would steer away from ACP and diazapan, as I understand it these make the dog unable to physically react but they are still mentally reactive. I have no experience at all of Xanax so can't comment on it.

    Build your dog a den that he can hide in. Some dogs are happy if their crate is covered but some prefer to hide under your bed.

    Don't worry about comforting him causing more stress, it has been proven that this doesn't happen so if he wants you to hide under the bed as well then do so.

    A lot of dog groomers use a "happy hoodie" to muffle the noise of reactive dogs. It's basically a snood type hood that the dog wears to block out the sound of the dryer and clippers. Something like this might be a help. Also try putting a cotton wool ball in his ears if he'll let you.

    Studies have shown that a high carb meal that is fed with vitamin B6 2 hours after a protein meal helps to calm dogs (known as the Val Strong diet) It can take a couple of weeks for the effect to show, so too late for this year but you can download the book from the COAPE website.

    The best thing you might be able to do at short notice is take him for a car ride into the middle of nowhere and sit with the radio on for a couple of hours until the worst is over.

    Olwen Turns SAC.Dip Behaviourist Cloverleaf Canine Centre

  2. I have just heard about giving your dog a bowl of porridge before fireworks start. I really am serious, this isn't a wind up. Somebody has tried it and is really pleased with the result. It may not work for every dog, but worth a try.

    1. Make some warm oats in Goats milk

  3. Complex carbohydrates such as oats can certainly be helpful, as mentioned in the previous reply. Chamomile can also be soothing. You could try these Dogs Love herbal biscuits in the Liver & Chamomile

    Have you tried sound therapy? It takes time so may not help this year but when you do it you will at least know that you are actually curing the fear rather than papering over the resultant anxiety. For tips on how to do sound therapy visit

    For this year, you are going to need to tips for dealing with the fear here and now. There are lots of things you can do from leading by example, distraction and comfort/dens. For more info visit

    Good luck.

  4. My colliex has been scared of certain noises since a pup she is now 12, two days ago I put the thundershirt on her before any fireworks she had just her food kibble, she has a bandana on which I spray with adaptil, the fireworks stated 15 mins later and she was very calm with no trembling, she laid low in one of the dog beds, She does have a soft crate she can go in if she wants to. I couldn't believe how calm she was, lots of bangs as it was a display very near 1/2 a mile. I did the same thing the following day without the food being given and she just pannicked and trembled not many bangs but lots of whooshing noises with small bangs from a house nearby, she does not like crow scareres ring binder being opened and closed either. I will do the same shortly and give the food and if any fireworks tonight see if that keeps her calm. I don't think mine will eat porridge but might try that next time. I did read somewhere that a collies hearing is very sensitive. I have 10 other dogs fireworks no problem and different breeds. Mostly rescues.

  5. I am a canine Bowen therapist and have been working on several dogs in the run up to firework night. Bowen is great in as much as it seems to help the dogs feel more rational and comfortable, and they are able to seek out a safe place for themselves before they get too stressed and panicky.
    I have been working on a friends terrier over the last 2 firework seasons and they have seen a 50% reduction in his reactivity, and he has been very interesting to work on as he was originally so terrified. The other dog I can really vouch for is my own greyhound who I adopted in April 2012, so I was totally unprepared for how bad she was last year. This year I started giving her some Bowen in early October, and although the Bowen hasn't taken all of her fears away-again she is more rational and has found a safe place over the last week in my bathroom which is downstairs where she cuddles up with some blankets, and the door open, so she can see the rest of us. She too has been 50% better than last year, and I love the fact that both these dogs have been making their own rational choices as to where they would like to be in order to deal with the loud bangs and hisses that accompany this time of year.

  6. I use organic valerian compound all natural ingredients and it seems to work within 30 minutes and if it is really bad I wrap her in a fleece blankets tightly and it calms her down

  7. Hi Wendy, my name is Tara and I am new to the ThinkTank, although I read Dogs Today magazine monthly. I have just started in private practice but have been dealing with problem dog behaviour (including my own dogs - all rescues!) for over 20 yrs.

    I've just read your post. It sounds like both Max and you have had a terrible time with fireworks. It is a problem I am very familiar with and I think that dealing with the problem at the time (when fireworks are going off) is ineffective in the long term. This said though I think DAP infusers and thundershirts can offer a calming influence.

    I specifically wrote a fireworks desensitisation programme with people like you in mind. It takes work on your part but now is the time to start. It is available here:

    Given the number of dogs that suffer from a fireworks phobia, I think it is important to work at it now. Unfortunately, it won't go away for next year and the fear can be transferred to other loud noises.

    Best, Tara