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Your Greyhound and Loud Noises

Bonnie Jeffers, GreySave volunteer

Summer brings loud noises such as fireworks and thunder; and for some Greyhounds, that means huddling in fear in a closet or bathroom.  Even worse, the dog may try to jump through a window, bolt through a door, or escape from a leash.  It is heartbreaking to watch a dog in panic, and the results can be fatal.

Before helping your dogs, however, you must confront your own emotions.  Dogs can read us like a book; you cannot fool them.  Think how often your dog has responded to your mood when you have been sad or anxious. If you are afraid of thunder or irritated by fireworks, your dog will feed on your emotion. You must confront those emotions within you in order to be a calm, confident pack leader.

If you anticipate that your dogs will have problems, perhaps because of earlier circumstances, then your emotions will telegraph to them that they DO have problems. So you must be calm and not to expect them to react negatively. Take a deep breath and try to relax yourself before you begin the activities suggested below.

If your dogs have not already developed a fear of loud noises, you can do the following to make sure they remain calm during summer noises. You want to make loud noises a signal of good things rather than a time of fear.

Activities

1) Bring out the treats - Bring out the best treats you have, maybe even indulge them with small (fingernail sized) pieces of hot dog or lunchmeat.  Whenever the “boom” hits, give them a treat.

2) Distract – Engaging the dogs’ minds helps distract them from their fear.

Practice commands your dog already knows such as “sit,” “shake,” “take a bow,” and “down” (this is not a time to teach new commands). 
Play ball, tug, or any other game the dogs enjoy. 
Have a parade with the dogs chasing you around the house as you drop small bits of treats behind you.
Play the radio or TV to help muffle the loud noises.

If your dog already has a fear of loud noises, you have a much harder task.  Concentrate on step two above.  Don’t give treats (rewards) when the dog is shaking and cowering.  Wait to give the reward until the dog begins to respond to the play, etc.

Further Tips

1) Don’t reinforce fear – Often efforts to comfort a fearful dog only reward and reinforce that behavior.  Never do the baby voice cooing “poor baby, everything is ok, don’t worry, mama’s here” routine.  In dog language this is read as weakness on your part.  The dog hears you, as the pack leader, sounding intimidated by the situation and responds with fear.  Always keep an upbeat, “we’re happy, and everything is fine” voice and manner.

2) Desensitize – If your dog already has developed a fear of loud noises, it may be very difficult to break that while the dog is in an anxious state.  Start now desensitizing the dog.  Buy a CD of a thunderstorm; play it daily for 15-30 minutes while your dog is resting beside you, playing with you, or eating (i.e. positive times).  Begin playing the CD at low volumes.  Over a period of days, slowly work up to louder and louder volumes until it sounds like the real thing.  Periodically give the dog a treat as long as he remains calm and focused on what you are doing. Each day try to slowly push the boundaries of your dog’s comfort slightly, but stop before he begins to panic.

Try to not leave your dog alone during fireworks or thunder until you are sure that he or she is not afraid of the noise.  Prepare now to help your Greyhound adjust to this summer’s noises. 

Runaways

Because so many dogs run away due to loud noises, please stop right now and do the following:

1) Make sure your dog is wearing a tag with your contact information in addition to the GreySave tag at ALL TIMES, even if he is just inside your home. If either of these is missing, replace it TODAY. (While you are at it, check the fit of your dog's collar. Collars tend to loosen over time.)

2) Go to http://www.greysave.org/lost.php to review the steps to follow if your Greyhound gets out. Don't wait until it happens to learn what to do.  When a dog gets out, every minute is crucial and can mean the difference between getting the dog back and having him hit by a car.