Boom! Doggy storm phobia!

It's a really good thing my storm-phobic dog can't read Facebook. The "boom" postings would totally send her to the moon and back!

Are you fearful and reactive to thunderstorms? Sometimes we can unknowingly displace our personal fears of storms on our dogs. Dogs read humans' and other animals' body language. Odors can be given off that we do not smell but they do, causing them to react or respond. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to be extremely sensitive and their natural response to fear most times is to flee.

My storm-phobic dog was shipped from the south to a local hunting club and hated the sound of the guns to the point she would not eat and the kennel master could not be rid of her soon enough. I'm grateful he did not just let her run in the woods and get lost. Many irresponsible hunters do this instead of properly training their dogs with qualified sportsmen dog trainers on confidence, desensitization and recall.

She started pacing when the wind chime made noise from the wind. I now find her peaceful in her crate with the crate door open when a storm is on the horizon. It took patience but she is more peaceful now with storms.

It is a key point when considering bringing a dog into your home that you understand the need of the breed. Can you provide the proper stimulation and exercise for the dog's genetic disposition? Do you have the patience to work with a dog that might have "baggage" or be phobic? The consequences? The expense?

I cared for a black lab mix who would round up the other animals in the house to go into the bathroom and shut the door whenever there was the slightest sign of a storm. I would find her in the tub behind the shower curtain, flatter than a pancake, shaking and drooling.

One of my personal rescue dogs was abused by someone that liked to blow cigarette smoke up her nose to make her sneeze. Fires started by lightning strikes and the smallest amount of smoke made that poor dog have a total meltdown.

Veterinarians and board-certified veterinary behaviorists have made great accomplishments in helping us understand the storm-phobic dog, treatments, training, accessories and desensitization for this behavior.

Understand that many times this behavior might escalate before it improves or might not change at all. That is why the first thing you should do is work directly with your veternarian. There are medications, holistic options, techniques and certified pet care professionals that your animal hospital team members can direct and guide you to for the optimum results.

Reinforcing calm behaviors, staying busy, favorite toys, creating a safe place (a crate, dog bed, or specific room) and doing this repetitively when there is not a storm are great training techniques and could make for a great bonding and exercise situation. Try doing some activities together with a thunderstorm CD playing softly in the background.

Discuss with your veterinarian the effectiveness of products like the Thundershirt, Storm Defender cape and pet anxiety wraps.

Do not believe everything you read on the internet or go crazy googling. The safest and best results will be with you working directly with your animal clinic.

Nancy Brown

Nancy Brown

Owner, Hot Diggity Dog, Inc.

Read More on Pet Care
Volume 11, Issue 13, Posted 9:57 AM, 07.02.2019