Many dogs have developed a fear of thunderstorms so severe it affects their health. These dogs must have medication to get through the storms. If only we had a crystal ball to let us know when unexpected storms are coming as we can’t always be home when the thunder starts.
To help your dog gain more confidence and conquer their fear of thunderstorms, start working on it when you are home during a storm. Dogs aren’t the only ones who have anxiety about storms. Many times their humans turn everything off, shut the curtains, and go, “Oh no, scary,” and their energy shifts and their dog responds.
Keep a radio on tuned in to some upbeat music and dance around a little bit. Keep your energy positive not hunkered down. Over time you may see positive behavior changes in your dog. Some dogs are destructive during storms and crates can come in handy for this. Just never try it out for the first time when you are not around in case the dog should get into trouble.
Marybeth Bittel gives four more tips to help your dog combat the fear of thunderstorms:
WATCH YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR DURING A THUNDERSTORM
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Constant petting or consoling is often interpreted by pets as a reward for the fearful response — or reinforcement that the fearful response is warranted. Conversely, punishment will only increase a panicked pet’s anxiety level and make their fear of thunderstorms worse. The solution? Projecting a calm, cool vibe and giving your dog attention in the form of playing, grooming, or other activities he normally enjoys.
SWITCH ENVIRONMENTS WHEN IT STARTS TO THUNDER
Changing your pet’s location can be surprisingly effective, because it may help reduce the storm’s volume level or make your pet less aware of it. Allowing your pet access to a room without windows may have a similar effect. Some pups find that a closet or the area under the bed feels especially safe and secure which helps to calm their fear of thunderstorms. If your pet heads for his crate, try covering it with a blanket to increase feelings of security. However, keep the crate door open so your pet won’t feel confined (which can dramatically increase anxiety).
INCREASE EXERCISE BEFORE A THUNDERSTORM STARTS
When thunderstorms are predicted, try to take your dog for a few extra walks before the clouds roll in. This helps to tire him both mentally and physically. Many vets claim that it can also boost natural serotonin levels, which then act as a natural calming aid and reduce fear of thunderstorms.
USE COUNTER-CONDITIONING DURING A THUNDERSTORM
Counterconditioning simply means helping your dog associate something negative (the thunderstorm) with something positive. Try keeping one of your dog’s favorite toys hidden away and bring it out to play when he begins to feel nervous about an approaching storm. Feed him an extra-special treat during these times, as well as a small piece of bacon or cheese. This diverts his focus, and enjoying the treat/toy during the storm may gradually help to recondition his response and reduce his fear of thunderstorms.
All of these practices can be used for puppies as well. Puppies are moldable so start positive and make storms a positive experience. Distract your dog’s attention to other things; music, dancing, play, a special chew toy, throwing out lots of toys, etc. Your behavior and energy are the most important, try your best to keep happy and show no fear. Here are a couple of homeopathic products that have proven their worth to help calm an anxious dog; Rescue Remedy.
Along with summer storms are summer vacations and it’s not too soon to start thinking about next summer and the best option for your dog while you are away.
If your dog is not part of your vacation, that’s fine, just make plans for your dog’s vacation. Visit kennels throughout the year to see how things run when least expected. Find a pet sitter and have them start to visit long before vacation time. Check out lots of different options.
This makes for some happy dogs. Doggy sleepovers…what a great idea. P.S. Some dog trainers will board dogs at their homes and even allow your dog to sleep in the bed if that’s what you want. A safe happy place to stay and some training, too. Does it get any better?
Here’s an idea for the dog days of summer: Take your dog on a date. Stop by your local dog park, then hit the pet shop for a treat. Another trip could be dinner out. A lot of restaurants have dog-friendly patios and Pet Junction has a lot of options for pet-friendly restaurants. Some dogs really like to get out.
By Lisa Holland
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