Dog on the Couch

2016-11-03 06:00

HI Susan, I have been told not to comfort my dog when she is afraid of loud noises such as fireworks, thunder, etc. I have been told that her fear will increase and that I should just ignore her during these times. I find this a callous response to a terrified animal. Is it right or wrong to comfort her by holding, stroking and talking in a soothing way?


As in many circumstances the answer is not black and white. Individual personalities of both pet and owner are to be considered. I wouldn’t advise ignoring the dog, nor would I advise that an over-concerned indulgence be shown in the face of such behaviour.

The dog may mistake over-concern as confirmation that her perceived fears are justified. Ignoring the behaviour is unkind and also confusing to the pet, which may think you are unaware of the perceived threat.

Acknowledging the occurrence and then showing support and a calm response will indicate you are aware of the problem but are not concerned. Panic can escalate if we see it mirrored in another. This will compound the fear response as we think “she is also worried”.

If you were swimming with a friend in her pool and a water-borne creature, resembling a cross between a squid and a snake suddenly came gurgling to life, you would very likely react fearfully, but your subsequent behaviour would be influenced by the reaction of your friend.

If your friend took fright, or acted in a concerned way, you’d both be out of the water in a flash. But if your friend responded in a calm and nonchalant manner you would assume she doesn’t consider the pool cleaning device a threat.

During such times ask yourself how you would feel being either completely ignored, or smothered by hugging, stroking and soothing noises. A gentle combination would be the better option. In many such cases the middle way is often the best way.

I’ll touch on this subject again prior to New Year’s Eve.

Susan Henderson© (accredited animal behaviour consultant)

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