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Have a Great Dog!

Natural Health Corner: Living With a Noise-Sensitive Dog

Fears and phobias in dogs are quite common but cause many owners much distress. It is difficult to watch your animal panic at the sound of thunder or fire crackers or other loud noises. Our 9 year old golden retriever have been noise sensitive all of her life, recently her problem has intensified. We don't know if this is due to her advanced age but it drives us batty . She has always hated loud, sharp noises like nail guns, power drills, thunder, firecrackers, etc. but now she is also afraid of hissing and popping radiators.

We have never really approached this problem behaviorally, by systematic desensitization, mainly because our problems of late tend to happen at three in the morning. I am and never will be a person who is in a good mood when woken in the middle of the night by anyone except my child. When my child sleeps through the night but the dog doesn't I consider this a situation that needs the fastest, least amount of work to remedy the problem. We tried putting her in a crate, putting her behind a baby gate in the kitchen, leaving music on, ignoring her, closing the door to our room, all the obvious management options. None of them worked. She would either escape, bark or rub her nose bloody trying to escape. I would be greeted in the morning by a dog that looked more like Rudolph than a golden retriever.

That's when I got desperate. I read a series in the Whole Dog Journal ( Treatments for Noise- and Thunder-Phobic Dogs; April & May '00) that sparked my curiosity. It involved giving melatonin, an over the counter supplement to dogs with this problem. Supposedly it did no harm and did not have any bad long term side effects as far as I could tell. For us it has been a miracle. We give one 3 mg tablet at the onset of her panic attack ( you should refer to the articles for proper dosage instructions, which vary greatly according to your dog's weight) or before bedtime if we know a storm is brewing. It takes about 30 minutes to take effect but within a half hour she is calm relaxed and usually dozing. Melatonin is a natural sleep inducer so I was not surprised by this reaction. One pill gets her through the night without incident. She doesn't seen groggy or disoriented just sleepy- a perfect solution for us. After a few nights of this we started crating her without giving her the melatonin and we haven't had a problem in about a month.

We try not to overuse this remedy except when we are desperate in the middle of the night. During the day I can train her and desensitize her to accept the noise as a good thing or manage her to keep her from hurting herself. It's those middle of the night calls that I just can't deal with. You may want to read up on melatonin or talk to your vet or holistic practitioner to see of this is right for your dog, especially if he has any underlying medical conditions or is advanced in age. Maybe melatonin will help you get a good night's rest as well!

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