YOUR DOG & THUNDERSTORMS
Mosman Vet (Vet, 2017)
Vet, M. (2017, 11 9). http://www.mosmanvet.com.au. Retrieved from Your Dog & Thunderstorms: http://www.mosmanvet.com.au/Blog/tabid/21948/EntryId/547/Your-Dog-Thunderstorms.aspx
Our dog’s world is much different from ours. Their sense of smell is 1000 times better than our own and their hearing is far more acute. It’s not surprising then, that dogs seem to pick up on impending weather changes and thunderstorms much before we do. To a dog, a thunderstorm represents a mini environmental disaster, several hours before we even know it’s on its way!
Owners of pooches with a thunderstorm phobia often have tales of their pets’ frantic behaviour. Gardens are dug up, furniture overturned and some dogs will defecate and urinate in the house. The cause of thunderstorm anxiety may be both hereditary and learnt behaviour.
These dogs can be helped to overcome their fear using a training process called systemic desensitisation and counter-conditioning. Basically, this involves exposing the dog to gradual increases in loudness of the thunderstorm noise using a tape recording and rewarding the dog for being relaxed when it is played.
There are also other methods you can do to help your dog. Try to make sure your dog always has a place to go for shelter. Animals dig and become destructive because they are searching for a safe place, and a good kennel, or den with some sound proofing will help. Never baby- talk to your dog through a storm. This is just a signal to him that the fear is OK. Interestingly, the most recent studies indicate that dogs with another dog in the household tend to manage their fear of storms better than single dogs do, even though the unaffected dog completely ignored the anxious dog during the storm. If you’re game, you could get your frightened friend a pal.
A pheromone diffuser called Adaptil (dog appeasing pheromone) may also be helpful. It has been found to successfully calm dogs in stressful environments and unpredictable situations. Thunder-shirts are anti-anxiety vests which work like a baby swaddle providing a protective, secure feeling for the dog.
Sometimes it will be necessary to tranquilise the dog during the first few training sessions. Various drugs are available and your vet will prescribe them, if needed, depending on whether the dog is better suited to sedation or anti-anxiety medication.
Written by Dr Rachele Lowe, Mosman Vet
Summary for Anxious Dogs in Thunderstorms:
- Desensitisation to storms
- Give your dog their own “safe place”/shelter
- Ignore anxious behaviour
- Reward relaxed behaviour
- Seek vet advice