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Dog Thunderstorm Phobia

August 07, 2008  |  Difficulty: Easy

Most dog owners have experienced this fear of storms first-hand.  Here are some ways to ease the fear.

PROBLEM:  Hiding, trembling, whining, drooling, pacing and even more destructive behaviors in response to storms.

Dog thunderstorm phobia is a widely misunderstood reaction pet owners face all too often, yet animal behaviorist are not really sure just exactly whether the dog is reacting to the sudden light flashes, thunder claps, rain on the roof, wind noises or some combination thereof. Part of the fear response to the storm is instinct. Studies by the Journal of American Animal Hospital Association found that many dogs start to whine and pace well before the storm which indicates that they feel the sudden drop in air pressure and the electrical charge in the air. The study found that these reactions were stronger in the working and sporting breeds

That same JAAHA study found that adopted dogs from rescue shelters were more likely to have had scary experiences so these dogs are naturally more anxious in a scary situation.

SOLUTIONS:
  • Be gentle. Be patient.
  • Try a thunderstorm nature tape on very low volume and stroke your pet gently during it using lots of praise and a reassuring tone.
  • Gradually desensitize your dog by raising the volume and keep your praising, rewarding behavior ongoing.  
  • After a short session, reward your dog with a treat and praise if his anxiety was a little less.
  • Never confine your terrified pet in his crate where he can do serious damage to himself out of fear.  

If you have no luck with these “systematic de-sensitization” measures, check with your vet about your dog’s fear and anxiety level and if it’s affecting other areas of his life, he may need medication.  

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