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How to help dogs that fear thunder (storm phobia)?


Living in the South, thunderstorms are part of your daily life during the summer. But when you live with animals, they can become your worst nightmare. We all want a calmer dog who doesn’t have to suffer the psychological damage done by booming thunder, wicked lightning and plummeting barometric pressures.

How do you handle thunderstorm phobia? Below are a few thoughts and suggestions.

* Don’t heed advice to let the dog “sweat it out” or not to “baby” him/her

Many pet owners explain that they don’t offer consolation to their pets because they don’t want to reinforce the “negative behavior” brought on by a thunderstorm. But a severe thunderstorm is no time to tell your dog to “buck up and get strong.” Providing a positive or distracting stimulus is more likely to calm him/her down.

* Offer treats, cuddle and other good stuff when storms happen

This method is best employed at the puppy age before the phobia sets in. Associating loud booms with treats is never a bad thing, right?

* Let them hide...in a crate

Hiding (as in a cave) is a natural psychological defense for dogs. Having a go-to place for relaxing or hiding away is an excellent approach, no matter what the fear.

* Get them away from the noise...and compete with it

Creating a place in a room that’s enclosed (like a closet or bathroom) may help a great deal. Adding in a radio to muffle the sounds can help, too.

* Desensitize them

Sometimes it’s possible to reduce the fears by using thunderstorm sound CD’s when it is calm outside. Play it at a low volume while offering positive stimuli (like treats and pettings). Increase the volume all the while, getting to those uncomfortable booming sounds over a period of weeks. It works well for some.

* Thundershirts/Anxiety Warps

Use such vests when it’s not raining. Lots of owners make the mistake of putting their dogs in these snug-fitting calming jackets after a storm has begun. In fact, having your dog wear the shirt before a storm hits, when he’s happy and relaxed, will help him associate the sensation of wearing it with feeling calm.

* Ask your veterinarian about drugs

Sure, there’s nothing so unsavory as the need for drugs to relieve dogs of their fears, but recognize some fears will not be amenable to any of these other ministrations without drugs. If that’s the case, please talk to your vet about it.

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