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Fireworks and Fido Don't Always Mix
Date:7/1/2011

By Maryann Mott
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Most people look forward to watching fireworks illuminate the night sky on the Fourth of July.

But for many family pets, the celebratory pops, booms and bangs trigger a full-blown panic attack. Some dogs are so terrified, they dig out of backyards, jump through glass windows, or scale walls to escape from the sound. Others pant, pace, tremble, whine and hide under beds or behind furniture.

San Francisco-based veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin said some dogs are more fearful because they didn't have positive experiences with those types of sounds early in life during a critical learning period, which takes place between 3 weeks and 3 months of age.

"That's the ideal time for dogs to be exposed to the many different types of things they're going to see and hear in real life," said Yin, author of the e-book Perfect Puppy in Seven Days. "After that, their default setting becomes more of being afraid of things that they didn't learn were OK."

How many dogs freak out over the sound of firecrackers is unknown, but every year shelters nationwide report taking in large numbers of spooked family pets. That's why making sure a pet's ID tag and microchip are up-to-date is also vital as this holiday weekend approaches.

Noise phobia strikes dogs of all ages, breeds and mixes. Cases severe enough to prompt owners to seek professional help occur in up to 20 percent of dogs, said Bonnie Beaver, a veterinary behaviorist at Texas A&M University in College Station.

Dogs afraid of one noise, such as fireworks, are more likely to develop or experience fears of other sounds as well, she said. "A poll suggested the number one noise fear in dogs is thunderstorms followed by fireworks, vacuum cleaners and guns, in that order," said Beaver.

Over time, with repeated exposure, the problem usually gets worse so animal behaviorist
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