How My Exercise Bike Calms My Dog During Fireworks and Thunder
Animals are naturally better at some things than humans. For me, my dog definitely outshines me in singing. But, in the auditory department, dogs, cats and certainly bats, blow us out of the water. The average human can hear at a range of 23,000 units of Hertz, and our four-legged pups can hear at nearly double that, a whopping 45,000[i]. Our cats? Even better – coming in around 64,000. So, for starters, let’s turn down the tunes in the car when Fido is riding shotgun. But, what about those booms, backfires and fireworks? What do those do to our precious pets whose hearing is magnified? They can create noise anxiety. It has been reported that as many as half of pets experience noise anxiety. Noise anxiety may result in physical symptoms such as “trembling, drooling, pacing, panting…and panicky attempts to hide or escape[ii].
From personal experience, my hound, Mazie, has extreme issues with loud noises. She senses thunder before we even know it is on the radar and the second she hears it, she is emotionally toast. Mazie’s noise anxiety symptoms include immediately going to the bathroom right where she stands, scratching the floor as if she were trying to dig out of it and shaking uncontrollably. As a pet parent, there is literally nothing I can do for her other than to wait it out, which is heartbreaking.
To try to ease her fears we have used multiple methods including medication, which has worked, but became less effective over time. We have also tried a ThunderJacket and wrapping her in blankets or towels. These have helped, but have not completely calmed her. What I have found has worked the best for us is simple ANTICPATION. I watch the weather. I check for fireworks schedules – anticipate and prepare as much as possible.
When I know it will thunder or that there are going to be fireworks I schedule myself for two things:
To BE HOME! So, important she knows I am there to protect her.
To work out. Yes, work out.
It may sound silly, but this actually works. The only time I have ever been able to calm her is immediately upon the first boom, go to my cardio exercise equipment. Specifically, I go to my exercise bike. I turn the bike on and take a ride. Between the music and the sound and vibration of the bike it calms her. I also have the bike in the basement. Mazie always runs to the basement when she is scared, so the fact that I go down there with her may ease some of stress.
I have also used the time to vacuum to generate a noisy distraction and gone to the faithful ol’ car ride (to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets – don’t tell my Vet) as well. These are three simple ways I have used to help ease her stress during noisy events.
With America’s Birthday coming up, I recommend anticipating and preparing yourself and your pet for fireworks. You can start by asking your neighbors, “Hey, are you having fireworks this year?” You can review the local fireworks schedule for start times and locations in the vicinity of your home. The 5th of July is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters as so many pets are turned in after having run away the previous night in fear. So, most importantly, keep your home and your pet secure; be sure to close and lock all doors, windows and gates and have a safe and happy holiday.
See you on the wild side,
P.S. Have an action plan in case your pet does go missing. Always have a recent picture of your pet and be sure they have an identification tag on their collar.
[i] Louisiana State University (2017, April 10) How Well Do Dogs and Other Animals Hear? from http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/HearingRange.html
[ii] Voss, Dr. James L. (2016, June 30). Pet Health: Summertime sun and sounds can be painful for pets from http://source.colostate.edu/pet-health-summertime-sun-and-sounds-can-be-painful-for-pets/
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