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6 Tips to Help Calm your Thunder-Phobic Dog

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6 Tips to Help Calm your Thunder-Phobic Dog

It’s thunderstorm season. While I’ve read that 20 percent of dogs are thunder-phobic, the number may actually be higher, as it doesn’t include people who have never sought treatment for their thunder-phobic dogs. People with thunder-phobic dogs know that it is no small problem. It doesn’t go away by itself, and left untreated, it only seems to get worse with age.

Symptoms of canine thunder-phobia include destruction, anxiousness, pacing and panting, hyperactivity, and crawling into a confined space, such as a bathtub or under the bed. The fear is often completely irrational. In most cases, nothing “bad” has ever happened to the dog during a thunderstorm. It’s more about a fear of what could happen. A dog with a severe thunderstorm phobia appears to think the world is coming to an end. Some people worry that their panic-stricken dogs are going to have a heart attack. To make matters worse, people often feel helpless and panic-stricken themselves when they don’t know how to help their dogs.

Six Holistic Ways to Calm your Thunder-Phobic Dog:

1) Confined Spaces: Allow them to go into a confined space, if they desire. If they are most comfortable in the bathtub, their crate, under the bed, or in a closet, allow them to be in that space. The space they retreat to may also be a quieter space that helps them minimize the sounds of the thunderstorm.

2) Counter Classical Conditioning: The idea is to pair something that your dog absolutely loves with the thing that they are afraid of. Timing is of great importance, because it’s important to start this before your dog’s anxiety is built up too much. When he is just sensing a storm approaching and starts to show mild signs of anxiety, make chicken fall from the sky, or take out his favorite toy for a fun game of play. If your dog is food motivated, this is a good time to have some very high value reward that he goes bonkers over. If you wait until your dog is already extremely panic-stricken, this probably won’t work. But, if you can keep his focus on the treats or toys, when the sounds get louder, rewarding just after a loud thunder boom with the high value reward could be very beneficial. Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., CAAB, has more detailed information on counter classical conditioning here.

Next: Using Sensory Integration to Calm Canines

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Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. She is co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Their new high-tech pet gadget, iCalmDog, is the portable solution to canine anxiety. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two "career change" Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa's blog here.


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12:31PM PDT on Jul 10, 2012

I’ve yet to try the free sample from Through a Dog’s Ear on my elderly Yellow Lab. He doesn’t like any loud noises because he associates those with the pain of getting two toes blown off at some point in his life. We assume it was a hunting accident as he still has buckshot in the remaining two toes and pad (we had it x-rayed when he started limping about 2 years after we adopted him). He’s slightly less anxious since we adopted a second Yellow Lab who has ZERO concerns about loud noises. Most of the time he just wants to be near someone but we’ve found him in my husband’s bedroom where an oxygen concentrator runs 24/7. It makes enough noise to mask some of the sounds that frighten my boy.

1:48AM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

Great ideas! Mine used to just love to sit in my lap and be held!

11:09PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

i have a very thunder-phobic cat...wonder if these things will work on cats as well.

5:37AM PDT on Jun 12, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

7:33AM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

thank you

10:12PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

If I am home during a storm I make an extra point to have soft music on and reassure him by
brushing him or just petting him and speak extra softly.. sounds corny but works for my dog
and cats

11:47AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Here are two articles that cover the methodology behind naturalizing solving thunder anxiety in more depth...

Thunder Anxiety - Part 2

Thunder Anxiety - Part 1

Cheers, Karen

8:28AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

I knew a dog that was terrified of thunder. She was a good early warning system, but I did feel bad for her. These might have helped if I'd known then. Thanks for the tips.

6:12AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

My aunt used to hide in the bathroom during thunderstorms.

5:15AM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

Some good tips there...thankyou

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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