What Should I Do with My Terrified Dog During a Thunderstorm?
- It’s possible that what you should do and what you can accomplish are not the same thing. If none of these options work, see your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
If your pet becomes terrified during a rainstorm, give her a new toy that looks like the toys she likes. Give her a new squeaky toy if she loves to chew the squeaky out of it, and a new stuffed animal if she likes to pull the stuffing out of it.
- Play the game she enjoys (tug, chase, or whatever your dog loves).
Give her a long-lasting bone or a food puzzle toy loaded with good food (not dull, dry kibble) to work on.
Make a comfortable resting area for the dog, such as a closet corner or a restroom, and observe if she behaves better there. Ideally, you should educate your dog to go there on command when there are no alarming sounds to establish this “zen” setting.
- Associate this spot with relaxing activities like massage and rewarding the dog for being quiet and comfortable when down. (More about safe havens or refuges may be found in Chapter 8.)
To deflect lightning flashes and lessen the sound of thunder and rain, close the windows and cover them carefully.
Try holding a training session with the dog, in which you ask her to repeat skills she already knows, such as “sit” and “down,” or have her do tricks. As a reward, use something with high monetary worth.
If you’re up for it, put on your rain gear and go a stroll with your dog.
Turn on some classical music (there are some fine examples at throughadogsear.com) to help drown out the rain and thunder. (Rock & roll may be preferred by certain dogs!) A white-noise machine is also a good option.
Spray a blanket with dog-pleasing pheromones and massage your dog with long, slow strokes on the blanket. 15 minutes before using the blanket, sprinkle it with pheromones. Alternatively, have your dog wear a pheromone collar and have a pheromone diffuser plugged in all the time throughout thunderstorm season.
When a family member attaches a leash and maybe a head collar to a dog and holds the leash, the dog may become more relaxed. (Remove it immediately if it does not help your dog relax.)
Crates may be preferred by certain dogs. Remember that a crate does not soothe all dogs, and many dogs will become considerably more agitated while crated; a crate is not ideal for such dogs.
If you know a storm is on the way, try to keep your dog busy before she becomes very agitated.
Is it possible to get help with medication?
Sammy is an eighteen-month-old neutered Lab mix who refused to go outdoors because he was afraid of noises (cars, construction sounds, objects falling, footsteps heard in the flat above).
To get him out of the flat, his owners had to carry him to their building’s elevator. When they were at home, Sammy spent much of his time in the bathroom since the apartment had too many sounds that frightened him. Sammy’s quality of life was definitely being harmed by this issue.
Sammy’s owners were heartbroken, and they had been attempting to assist him using behavior modification approaches. They did observe some progress after adopting some behavior changes, but they still required additional assistance.
Fast-acting antianxiety drugs were administered since rapid relief was required; he was also supplied with some comparable but longer-acting meds.
Within a few days, the family saw Sammy doing things he hadn’t done in a long time, such as accompanying them to the elevator and going outdoors on his own.
Despite the fact that Sammy’s behavioral problem therapy had just recently begun, his early favorable reaction filled everyone with optimism and smiles!
When you take the necessary precautions to minimize anxiety or use behavior modification strategies, many dogs may learn to accept loud noises.
However, some dogs, such as Sammy, are unable to overcome their phobia without treatment. Medication may assist, and in some cases is required, to reduce the degree of dread, anxiety, or panic so that behavior modification exercises can be effective.
Learning is very tough for someone who is scared and emotionally distraught. Imagine being afraid of heights and being ordered to climb to the top of the Empire State Building with a mathematics book and the instruction, “While you’re up there, read this book and then tell me what you learned.”
Is it even possible?
Consider what occurs when you are frightened. Adrenaline is being released by your body. The first fight, flight, or freeze reaction is triggered by this hormone. It primes the body for survival.
When you’re in survival mode, your body isn’t bothered with mundane tasks like digestion, reproduction, or learning new ideas that seem insignificant at the time.
When animals are terrified, they, like humans, are unable to learn anything. It’s also a type of education to learn not to be afraid.
Medication may be extremely beneficial in these situations. Medication may help a dog learn to play games, consume rewards, and understand that she doesn’t have to be afraid by doing behavior modification activities. The idea is for the dog to develop new neural pathways in her brain and learn to be fearless in a circumstance on her own. She may not require medicine again in the future.
There are a variety of drugs that may be utilized, and you should always visit your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist to see which ones are best for your pet. There are no FDA-approved medications to treat noise phobias in dogs, unlike separation anxiety.
Only one research, conducted by veterinary behaviorist Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis, looked at the use of clomipramine and alprazolam in dogs with storm phobias. This medicine combination proved to be beneficial to her.
Other pharmaceutical alternatives for your dog may be more suited or beneficial.