Pet Advice for the Modern Homestead

Calming thunderstruck animals, tattooing dogs and other useful tips.

| October/November 1991

Here's some pet advice to keep your favorite animals healthy and happy.

When my dog hears loud noises, such as thunder or firecrackers, he just cowers on the ground and shivers. What can I do to help him put up with these noises a little better? 

Lots of people get into what is called the "lt's OK" syndrome with their dogs when the animals are frightened. They see that their pet is scared or acting aggressively, and they bend down, pet the dog, and whisper, "It's OK, it's OK," or scoop the dog up in their arms to comfort it.

Petting a dog and speaking to it in a comforting tone is a way of rewarding it for its behavior. When people see their dog reacting to a situation with fear or aggression and then stroke it, they are telling it that this is the right reaction to have. The dog, who is not dumb, will repeat its reaction to get more praise. The owner then comforts the animal, who becomes increasingly nervous or aggressive.

It's important to try to let your pet know when it is young that loud noises are nothing to be afraid of. If it is a controllable situation (your living room during a storm, for example), try to anticipate the loud noise and make your puppy sit until the noise is out of earshot. Praise your pet lavishly after the crashing has passed, and in time it will lose its fear.

Noises such as firecrackers, which are much more dramatic and disturbing to animals, are harder to deal with. Because they happen only a few times a year, on occasions that are easy to anticipate and plan for, be compassionate and allow your dog (who has much more sensitive hearing than you do!) to stay at home. If this is impossible, I have known some people who have even used rubber earplugs to some success.

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