The Boom Box - Sammy in a Kennel.
Sammy was a Siberian Husky that was taken to an animal shelter on the last day of the year. His owner told the shelter workers that he was moving and could not take Sammy with him. The timing was especially bad because the workers at the shelter didn't know the real reason Sammy was surrendered -- New Year's Eve.
On January 1st, after the holiday, the manager opened the shelter and took a fast look through the kennels. In Sammy's kennel, there was blood everywhere. There was blood on Sammy's silver coat and bloody streaks on the walls. His paws were dark red.
After a brief examination, the cause of Sammy's wounds was appar-ent-- he had tried to dig his way out of a concrete kennel. He had scraped his nails until they bled. The night before, the town fireworks display had taken place at a nearby park. Sammy was so terrified of the noise that he franti-cally tried to escape his predicament. As the finale boomed over the gaping spectators, Sammy was suffering through the worst night of his life.
Fear of loud noises is a common problem for pets. In nature, the booming of thunder and the crack of a lightning strike are taken in stride. A wolf may hunker down under a rock or sit out a storm in a den or burrow. Animals that chose to run from the sound are rewarded eventually with peace and quiet.
In contrast, city pets are inevitably confined in some way. The loose confinement of a backyard allows Fido just enough room to get into trouble. As he darts frantically to get away from the noise, he is likely to claw through doors and windows to get inside the house. Fido may also choose to escape by digging under or jumping over a fence. It is not unusual for the animal to rip hunks of wood and sheet metal from gates and other obstacles. This blind, maniacal terror can lead to serious injury or death.
If the animal does survive the experience, deeply rooted fears may remain. Some dogs will ever after panic at the sound of a car backfire, while others tremble at the sound of distant thunder. Unless some action is taken the terror is likely to increase in its intensi-ty. The best way to treat this problem is through preventive conditioning.
The process of desensitizing an animal to loud noises is similar to that used by hunters. Gun dogs are usually introduced to cap guns and loud hand claps as puppies. As the animal grows, the magnitude of the noise is gradually increased. Soon Fido can handle the blast of a shotgun at close range. Pet owners can start by softly banging pots and pans together and escalate the noise gradually. Soon your dog will not be traumatized by loud noises.
If your animal already has an aversion to loud noises, the process of desensitization must be applied cautiously. Here are a few suggestions that may ease the stress of the 4th of July, thunderstorms and New Year's Eve.
· Use your stereo to gradually habituate the pet to loud noises. Modern CD players reproduce sound almost perfectly. Most record shops have sound effects CD's that include thunder, gunfire and explosions. By starting at a very low volume, the dog becomes used to the sound -- a little at a time, over a period of several weeks. It helps if these training sessions include either playtime or meals. Distracting the dog through play can help desensitize it, while food can act as a mild tranquilizer.
· Discuss the advisability of chemical tranquilizers with your veterinarian. Contrary to popular belief, tranquilizers do not always calm an animal. Ask your veterinarian to test your pet's sensitivity to tranquilizers before you intend to actually use them. A dry run using a sound effects record is far safer than the real event because you can turn off the noise if the animal overreacts to the drugs.
· Some animals are best confined in a dog crate, or inner room of the house. The sound of fireworks will be softened partially by the walls. Dogs that become extremely agitated are capable of doing damage to their paws and mouth by attempting to dig and bite through the crate or a sheet rock wall.
· Puppies should be conditioned to accept loud noises as soon as they are brought home. If the animal shows fear of the noise, drop your standards and move at a slower pace. Soon the pup will be able to withstand volumes normally reserved for "boom box" pickup trucks.
· Put lots of identification on your pet during summer storm seasons and holidays. Have the i.d. tag riveted to your dog's collar rather than using a flimsy split ring or "s" hook. Make sure you can get no more than two fingers under the collar so it will not slip off. Put a second collar on the dog in case the first comes off, or is removed by a person trying to call your number.
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