Summer is almost here! This brings many festivals, visits to the cottage, off-leash trips, walks and more opportunities to modify unwanted behaviour outdoors. This also means Summer Thunderstorms.
There are many dogs that are afraid of thunderstorms. The signs of fear include: pacing, panting, tongue way out (spatulate shape), braced legs, ears drawn to the side and back/flattened, excessive hair loss, rounded top line, tail down or hyper salivation.
Although a fear of thunderstorms is difficult to modify, because you can’t recreate all the components of a storm, there are a few things that you could do to help a dog who is afraid of thunderstorms.
If your dog likes his crate, make sure that he has one accessible. Otherwise you can train him to be comfortable in it by teaching him to enjoy spending time in his crate and by associating the crate with good things.
Block the Shock:
With a storm comes an increase in static electricity that may cause shocks to your dog, particularly long and thick coated breeds. Try rubbing down your dog with bounce sheets to prevent static shock, spray his coat and paws with water and put him on a linoleum floor.
Pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system and a tight wrap around your dog’s body, just as you would swaddle a newborn, can actually decrease anxiety significantly. Based on surveys completed by over two thousand clients, 80% of dogs show significant improvement in symptoms, as have many dogs in my training classes. You can purchase a thundershirt at many local pet stores.
Desensitization to Thunder:
There are many components of a storm that you can’t recreate, but sound would be the easiest to try. You can buy a pre-recorded CD of the sounds of a thunderstorm and start by playing it really low. You can pair the association of the noise with something good including treats, play or massage to create a positive association. Speak with a professional trainer or behaviourist about the rules of counter conditioning and desensitization.
If your dogs fear is quite profound, you can speak with your vet about pharmacological intervention. There have been studies on the successful use of Melatonin in thunderstorm phobic dogs. You may also speak with your vet about administering Melatonin before attempting other medications.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
In Dogs We Trust Motivational Dog Training 226-663-0558 www.indogswetrust.ca
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