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Female German Shepherd TERRIFIED of fireworks (and storms) ... Please Help

Hi fellow Dog Lovers,

My friend owns a female German Shepherd at about the age of four, "Sam". Sam is terrified of fireworks and thunder. Whenever either of these two events occur, she goes into a mode of high alert and starts shivering. She will go into a corner and sit, shaking and horrified. We normally hang around her to ensure she doesnt do anything crazy to hurt herself.

Background info...

Sam was adopted from the age of a puppy with her sister, "Sarah". Sarah was the Alpha dog. She was obviously dominant over Sam, not letting her eat and was always far more energetic. Sam, until the age of about one, had anorexia and depression, and went to the vet for these conditions. she wasn't eating and was skinny. One New Years Eve, the dogs went crazy from neighbourhood fireworks. Sarah jumped over the fence, never to be seen again. I think this may play a massive part in Sam's trauma.

Last Christmas...

Last Christmas, we all went out to a family lunch. On that day there was a massive storm; with thunder, and with hail the size of golf balls. Sam, being left alone at home inside the house, went crazy. We were not home, but we received a call from the neighbours, so we hurried home. Sam was so horrified of the storm, she scratched and broke the window shutters, cutting her paws. She tried to find a way out of the house. In the end, she jumped through a window, getting glass into her paws. She then jump over the fence to the neighbour. The neighbour caught her and bandaged her wounds. Sam was then taken to the vet for treatment. We came home and found the house upside down with blood all over the floor.


Obviously, this dog is damaged, and we need to do something to help her, before she hurts herself seriously. What can we do????

Please help.

Thanks heaps.
 

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You will probably need a vet to prescribe something, but I'd definitely get a Thundershirt and try melatonin (1 mg per 20 lbs). Give it as soon as you think a storm is coming/or fireworks will be set off. The day of expected fireworks/storm, try to make sure you exercise her as much as possible, early enough to allow at least an hr of rest before storm/firework onset. Exercise will reduce anxiety, but at the peak of exercise, you can get an adrenalin rush, so you want to allow time for that to subside before teh storm/fireworks.

I'd play "crate games" (google it) and get her the strongest and safest crate possible, and put it in a room without windows (like a walk in closet/space under stairs/bathroom). Take your time to teach her that it is a safe, happy spot. When a storm is approaching, let her go in there, and turn on a radio, loud enough to drown out some of the noise. Put her thundershirt on her. Contain her in the crate and that room.
 

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You will probably need a vet to prescribe something, but I'd definitely get a Thundershirt and try melatonin (1 mg per 20 lbs). Give it as soon as you think a storm is coming/or fireworks will be set off. The day of expected fireworks/storm, try to make sure you exercise her as much as possible, early enough to allow at least an hr of rest before storm/firework onset. Exercise will reduce anxiety, but at the peak of exercise, you can get an adrenalin rush, so you want to allow time for that to subside before teh storm/fireworks.

I'd play "crate games" (google it) and get her the strongest and safest crate possible, and put it in a room without windows (like a walk in closet/space under stairs/bathroom). Take your time to teach her that it is a safe, happy spot. When a storm is approaching, let her go in there, and turn on a radio, loud enough to drown out some of the noise. Put her thundershirt on her. Contain her in the crate and that room.
When you say "melatonin," are you talking about the same melatonin that humans use that you can get o/c? It's safe to give human melatonin to dogs?

I tried googling it and got contradictory information. Fireworks/firecracker season is coming up here and I'd like to do something concrete to reduce my dog's anxiety at this time of year.
 

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My dog has a Thundershirt..and it does help some..but she also gets diazepam (valium) half an hour or so before I expect any storms or fireworks. Sound sensitivity increases over time in most cases, so something has to be done to work on the fear. Classical conditioning can help, but if she's really stressed she is likely to not want food..so meds are often the thing to help get you over the hump while someone does desensitization with sound cds and during storms/holiday firecrackers. The stress can really make a dog ill.

The only word of warning I want to give you is that if you go to a vet regarding medicine (which is my recommendation, I honestly don't think Melatonin is going to help much in a dog with a history of general anxiety/shy behaviour)..do NOT let them recommend you get Acepromazine, which is a muscle sedative but does nothing to decrease anxiety itself. They really require a proper anxiolytic drug.

www.fearfuldogs.com is a great resource for information on classical conditioning and desensitization. Good luck.
 

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When you say "melatonin," are you talking about the same melatonin that humans use that you can get o/c? It's safe to give human melatonin to dogs?

I tried googling it and got contradictory information. Fireworks/firecracker season is coming up here and I'd like to do something concrete to reduce my dog's anxiety at this time of year.
Yes...people Melatonin. Be aware that it comes in both 1 and 3 mg pills. It was recommended in our paper by a vet. I've used it in the past on dogs that freak out with thunder/fireworks. It worked very well when given before the storm hits. Do not give more than 6 mg even to very large dogs. (dosage is 1 mg per 20 lbs of dog weight.). Check with your vet if your dog has any medical problems, is pregnant or elderly.
It's considered to be pretty safe. They don't act "drugged", but merely not seem to be as bothered by noise. My barn owner had a GSD that would go through windows when it thundered, and it even worked for her dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
thanks all for your advoce, however i dont think it would be the right approach to give her medication every time a storm approaches. This means i will have to be in the house whenever a storm or fireworks are expected. I have been watching cesar millan rehabilitate dogs from their fears and i wanna take that kind of approach. any advise?
 

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any advise?
Yes. Don't do that.

You'll likely ruin your dog.

Look into all the other options for your dog to help her, rather than trying to take a shortcut that is likely to exacerbate the issue.
 

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FWIW, Christy, the GSD/Boxer mix in my sig used to be scared of thunder/fireworks. I used Melatonin on her for about a year, and after that, she no longer needed anything. It's been about 6 yrs since she has been off the Melatonin.

I agree with Xeph. You will end up with a really terrified dog, if you try to do what CM does. His show is for ENTERTAINMENT. They don't show the failures.
 

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Thanks for answering my question, spotted nikes, that's what I was hoping to hear. I'm going to give it a try this year. How often should you give it, once a day or more often?

I'd also like to give the Thundershirt a try but they don't seem to be available around here. I've been eying an old fleece top of mine that is quite stretchy, thinking I might try to fashion something similar out of that. Anyone ever tried doing something like that?
 

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Thundershirts are available online.

I'd only give the Melatonin when you have an approaching storm or know there will be fireworks. So you don't need it daily.
 

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Thundershirts are available online.

I'd only give the Melatonin when you have an approaching storm or know there will be fireworks. So you don't need it daily.
Well, actually in my particular situation, it would have to be given daily for a period of time. That's because the Chinese New Year celebration spans several days and literally sounds like a war zone outside with the fireworks and firecrackers exploding nonstop from the early morning hours and continuing until 2:00 or 3:00 AM in some places. It's my least favourite time of the year - I guess you have to be Chinese to appreciate it. I'd like to be able to spare Plume as much suffering as possible.
 
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