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Coping with Noise

By Robin Tierney

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Humane societies and shelters generally take in more stray animals over the Fourth of July holidays because many pets are scared by fireworks and run away. Below are some tips to help pets cope with outdoor noises.

Holiday fireworks and other fanfare are often frightful experiences for dogs. The loud noises can hurt their sensitive ears, since their hearing is much more acute than our own.

Frightened dogs have different reactions: some tremble at their owners' feet, others retreat to a hiding place, some try to run off (traveling for miles), and others display bizarre behavior. According to behavior specialist Dr. Elizabeth Shull, low-frequency, percussive noises such as fireworks and summer thunderstorms trigger wild fear in about 20% of dogs. Under such circumstances, ordinarily well-behaved pets may become aggressive, destructive and unpredictable.

Here are some precautions you can take to help your pets:

* Always make sure collars are snug and exercise utmost caution when taking a dog into new environments. And make sure all pets always are wearing securely fastened ID tags (microchips are a great idea too). Even a back-firing car or shot in the woods can be enough to incite a dog to run off, so avoid taking any changes.

* Don't take pets to events with fireworks.

* If fireworks are being set off nearby (or if you're having guests over for a holiday celebration), find a quiet, secure place to keep your pets. Crating is a good idea. Make sure you put safe chew toys in their crates to occupy and distract them during the event.

* Don't leave pets outside, even in a fenced yard, anytime when fireworks might be set off in the distance.

* Rather than simply cuddle a frightened dog, try to distract the dog from the disturbing noises with physical activity such as playing ball.

* Vets can prescribe tranquilizers for frightened dogs. Some people find that non-prescription remedies such as Rescue Remedy or Serene-um calm their dogs.

* If you're going out of town for the holidays, entrust the care and feeding of pets to an adult friend or a boarding kennel you know very well.