Whose Bed Has Your Pooch Been Under? Thunderstorm Anxiety

Whose Bed Has Your Pooch Been Under?
Dealing with Thunderstorm Anxiety


For dog parents whose fur babies hate storms, bad weather can be just as stressful for the humans as it is for the furry ones.  It is a myth that dogs who hate thunderstorms have been, at some point in their lives, left out in the weather.  The fact is, thunder is loud, and to a dog, it is scary.  While as human, we learn about lightening and thunder in science class at school, dogs have no avenue to explain this phenomenon other than it is big and scary.



I have a few tips for owners of dogs who suffer from thunderstorm anxiety.

1. Let your dog hide

Many people make the mistake of dragging their dog out from wherever they have sequestered themselves.  It is a sort of face-your-fear mentality.  Rather than forcing your dog out, wait and see if they venture out on their own.  Even a peek out from under the bed should be rewarded with a treat or a pet.  When your dog eventually emerges, make a big deal out of loving on them.  The dog will realize when he comes out, he gets good things.

2. Create a safe space

Cover your dog's crate on 3 sides (except the entrance) with a blanket and put a t shirt or pillow case that smells like you in there. You can also put some good chewies or bones in there to complete the den-like environment.  If your dog's go-to place is a closet or bathtub, and it is a safe environment for them to hide in, I usually just make it comfortable for them there.  I will put a plush pad down for them to lay on and a blanket over them to snuggle.



3. It is OK to comfort your dog

Many people make the mistake of thinking if they pet or try to sooth their dog when their dog is afraid, they are reinforcing that behavior.  Research has shown the opposite to be true.  Just like our human kids, our fur kids need to be soothed at times.  If your dog is not a huge snuggler, squashing him in a big bear hug is probably not the way to go.  Try stroking your dog in long pets along the grain of the fur on the sides and tummy, mimicking the way a momma dog would groom her puppies.  Talk in a soft, soothing manner.  I sing to my dogs...not like head banging tunes, but sweet melodies.  No one else might appreciate it, but my dogs do!



4. Try a Dog Appeasing Pheromone

A dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) is a synthetic pheromone used to help calm certain reactions in dogs.  It is available in a room diffuser, a collar, or a spray.  We cannot smell it but your dog can.  Research resoundingly supports the efficacy of this stuff.  In studies, marked improvement was shown in dogs that used DAPs (Landsberg et al, 2015; Sheppard & Mills, 2003).




In my work as a professional dog trainer, I have seen no marked improvement or any benefit from using Thundershirts or calming shirt type contraptions.  But if it makes you feel better to dress your dog up, then it might make your dog feel better by default.  Some dogs hate wearing clothes, though.  So either he will focus on hating the shirt and not the thunderstorm (mission accomplished) or you will end up traumatizing him further.


Cheers,
Sammy the Dog Trainer
Come See What We Found


References

Landsberg, G. M., Beck, A., Lopez, A., Deniaud, M., Araujo, J. A., & Milgram, N. W. (2015). Dog-appeasing pheromone collars reduce sound-induced fear and anxiety in beagle dogs: A placebo-controlled study. The Veterinary Record, 177(10), 260. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.capella.edu/10.1136/vr.103172

Sheppard, G., & Mills, D. S. (2003). Evaluation of dog-appeasing pheromone as a potential treatment for dogs fearful of fireworks. The Veterinary Record, 152(14), 432. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.capella.edu/10.1136/vr.152.14

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