So your dog is scared of thunderstorms…..
Well I hate to break it to you but so are some people and we don’t go around drugging them, ignoring them or yelling at them when they lose control of the bowels and bladder now do we? I know this seems like a crazy way to look at the scenario but unfortunately this issue has way more questions than it has answers L
Some trainers swear by totally ignoring the dog and refusing to feed into the fear but if you have ever seen a bad case of thunder storm phobia then you will realize how cruel that seems… Other trainers want you to drug the dog so that you don’t have to witness the fear but the dog is just half unconscious and still scared… And others won’t even talk to a trainer they just get frustrated with the destruction and/or damage a dog who is scared out of their minds can cause… These folks end up yelling, screaming or punishing the dog and make an already bad situation worse!
To be honest with you I am not sure there is one particular solution to thunderstorm phobic dogs. There is instead tons of things to try (and others to avoid), going with the one that works best for your furry four legged friend. That being said I do recommend having a great Vet and Trainer on speed dial to run your ideas by. They are going to have tried many of these ideas and can give good guidance along your path to success. Now if that last sentence makes you think that this is going to be a quick fix well then I am sorry because whether dog , monkey or human phobias are usually deep seated and don’t get started or are fixed over night!
My goal with this article is not to teach you how to fix a thunderstorm phobic dog but rather give you a great starting point (or list) of ideas you can research that will help you find solutions and things to try. The goal should be to relieve as much of the stress and fear that your pooch has been facing as you can…. This list will not cover all solutions but some that I think might help…
1.       Love… Ok let’s get this one out of the way right now… I think it is cruel to just flat ignore a dog who is terrified during a storm! That being said I don’t want to smoother the dog, freaking out myself while all the time repeating “Oh my god Fido it will be OK… Daddy loves you and will never let the storm get you” at the top of my lungs… Rather, simply comforting the dog with kind touch and very little in the way of conversation is your best bet, and just being there for the dog in many cases I think will help A lot as well!
2.       Thunder Shirt/ Anxiety Wraps… These are shirts that Velcro or wrap around a dog in a way that is similar to swaddling a baby. In many cases simply the tight feeling of one of these devices will calm a dog during the storm. The simplest truth I can share is that I do use these in my own dog training practice, and do feel that they work…
3.       Music… More specifically the “Through a Dogs Ear” program… they have partnered with Victoria Stillwell to create music/ noise cd’s to help with habituation, conditioning and reward based solutions for not only Thunderstorm but also with fireworks and other city type noises… To me the way the program is designed covers nicely the entire idea of learning theory as a way to improve your pooch’s issues…
4.       Smells or Aromatherapy… This is the use of smells like lavender or chamomile along with the idea of pheromone therapy (most will use the smell or pheromone of a lactating mother dog) which all are natural calming agents from nature… The cost of these items has actually come down recently and also have a good track record of improvement….
5.       Associations… This one is built off the idea of making the storms more fun! Really it is the simplest of the ideas here. We can hand feed our dog their favorite food before during and after the storm to breakdown the scary nature of the storm. The same idea could be used with the dog’s favorite toy or game during the storm. Even a game of find the treats where I will hide 25 to 30 small treats throughout the house and let Fido look for them during the storm just might keep him from thinking about the storm. The fact is that if you are having fun it is kind of hard to be scared right?
Lastly don’t forget that the real answer might be a combination of the ideas here or adding one that is not even listed… The fact is that the only way to make something less scary is to make it more fun or rewarding. Yes, we can even use compassion… My last suggestion would be repeating my first suggestion… Call a local trainer or set up a time to talk to your vet! They would love to help you and your pooch be able to cope better during the next storm!
PS the tips in this article also work quite well for fireworks as well!!!!
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