Assistance Dog Day

by Ron Tatro, Vice President

Did You Hear That?

Today is Assistance Dog Day. Many people with disabilities have service dogs. Also, many seniors have assistance dogs or emotional support animals that provide companionship and comfort. Although these dogs are remarkable with their skills and training, it is important to remember that they are not machines and can be affected by loud noises. Whether an animal is a highly trained service dog, an emotional support animal, or a companion, it is helpful to be aware of ways to help them through scary events.

Early this morning an intense summer storm moved through the area. I was awakened by rain, cracking thunder, and lightning. As I lay in bed, my thoughts turned to our neighbor who has three German Shepard dogs. We recently had a discussion about how her dogs handled the 4th of July fireworks. She mentioned two of her dogs were somewhat disturbed by the noise, while the third didn’t seem to mind. This got me thinking about how people and animals are alike.

Dogs and humans can be afraid of loud noises, thunder, and lightning. We want to be safe inside and not be on a golf course during a storm. Animals also want to be safe; seeking shelter in a closet, under a bed, or being close to their owners. So what is in our DNA that creates a similar response in both humans and animals?

In prehistoric times, it was an environment of hunting and gathering for both man and beast. To survive we needed to be aware of impending danger including loud noises, bright lights (lightning), and the possibility of falling off the face of the earth. Humans have developed some capacity to understand these events through reasoning, but our animal friends may have not. So, what can we do to make life a little less threatening for our animal friend?

  • Loud noises are scary and threatening. This can include noises like thunder, rain, hail, traffic, and gunshots. Have a safe area for your animal to retreat to such as a crate, closed space, or behind furniture. Create some background sounds such as radio or television. Talk to your animal in a soft, reassuring manner. Some experts say that you should not hold or cuddle the animal, but allow them to remain close to you.
  • Smells such as approaching rain or high winds can cause them to become anxious. Remember, they can often detect impending weather changes before humans can.
  • Some owners advocate the use of medication, such as Benadryl, for loud noise, travel related issues, and general behavior management. Any medication has both pros and cons to its use. Please consult with your veterinarian before administering medication.
  • There are commercial products available that may be able to help. There are jackets that wrap around the animal’s body to provide a slight compression creating a feeling of support and security. This reassures your pet that they are safe.

As the storm moved on and I drifted off sleep, I pulled the blankets up to make my own little cave. Safe for another night.


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