Fear of Thunderstorms is a very common problem with dogs in Arizona; especially during the monsoon season and during fireworks displays.
You can help by desensitizing your dog to the noises of thunderstorms, by playing rain and storm CD’s and videos in your home during non-storm season. Start playing your CD’s with volume very low while playing with your dog. Play “fetch” or lay on the floor and rub his/ her tummy—anything that is distracting or relaxing for your pet. Gradually increase the volume of your CD as your dog gains confidence and is able to ignore the noises. As he becomes ore relaxed with the storm noises, you can begin to decrease the level of attention you are giving him (so that he doesn’t expect you to give him 100% of your attention every time there is a storm!).
IGNORE THE INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR:
Giving your dog attention when he is afraid is very tempting. Unfortunately, it only promotes codependent behavior. Instead, try the next tip to teach your dog that he can function appropriately and receive your positive attention for the ne appropriate behaviors when a storm is brewing.
You can also distract your dog during storms by playing games, doing Obedience drills, or giving him a long-lasting food treat such as a “Twist and Treat” filled with a smear of lite cream cheese or cheese whiz. Again, the objective is to distract him from the environment. If you train your dog to play “fetch” every time a storm threatens, before long, he’ll be forcasting theweather by bringing you his ball!
DAP is a synthetic doggy happiness hormone that mimics the hormones given off by mother dogs during the early weeks of life. Exposure to this pheromone helps dogs relax In scientific studies, dogs displayed fewer “nervous” behaviors when they were exposed to anxiety provoking stimuli than did dogs who were not! Plug a diffuser into the socket near where your pet rests dueing the day. Perhaps one in his safety zone. Aerosolized DAP is available to spray directly in the environment during sudden onset of anxiety or whenever our dog is demonstrating sudden onset of anxious behaviors (for whatever reason– not just storms! Great for separation anxiety, too!). You can also spray DAP on your dog’s bandana!
During times when you are not home, and a storm may come, be sure that your dog has a “safe” place to go to get away from the elements. You may have to provide a dark room or closet for him to hide in. As strange as this sounds, having a small dark place to hide goes a long way toward relieving your pet’s anxiety. Outdoor dogs will probably need access to the house or garage via a doggy door.
If your dog is already trained to the Gentle Leader, place the collar on at the first signs of anxiety. The sensation of Mama Dog being near (as she “scruffs” the dog’s neck with the neck loop of the collar) can reduce many anxieties. If your dog is not already trained to a collar, start now! It’s a help with many behavior issues as well as Thunderstorm Phobias!
These tight fitting body wraps help many pets feel more secure. They are available on line at Amazon.com
There are several “natural” remedies that you can try. The only one that we have seen help consistently is “Anxitane”. This is available through Cimarron Animal Hospital or Amazon.com
If these measures do not help and your dog is unable to sit down during a storm or threatens to hurt himself or destroy your property, there are medications that can help.
Tranquilizers (like Acepromazine) cause sedation but behaviorists agree that, while the pet appears less anxious, he is still scared, just unable to demonstrate it because he is too sleepy. If your pet is able to rest quietly or sleep through the storm, a tranquilizer may be fine to help him cope with the anxiety. However, if he still remains awake and looks scared, even though he may not be moving much, an anti-anxiety drug may bea more humane choice.
“Clomicalm“is often a good drug with good safety that can be started a few weeks BEFORE storm season. It is given on a daily basis, so that the pet is calmer, even in the middle of the day, when our storms usually threaten, but we are not there to give them medication. For sudden anxiety, we can administer a panicolytic drug such as Alprazolam. this drug will cause some sedation, but mostly will help the dog with an overall sense of well-being. It takes about 1/2 hour to start taking effect and lasts for 4- 8 hours. Once your dog is more relaxed, work on those Obedience exercises or playing a game or giving a treat toy. The medication can help more anxious dogs LEARN that thunderstorms aren’t actually dangerous to them.
Call Your veterinarian to help you decide which treatment would be best for your dog.