Dog's Eye View: Here comes the storm |

Dog’s Eye View: Here comes the storm

Sandra Kruczek
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

We’ve had a wet spring and as a matter of fact it’s thundering outside right now.

Maybe you have a dog that suffers from thunderstorm phobia or may know someone whose dog does.  This is a very upsetting problem for owners and dogs, and can be the cause of serious injury to some dogs.  Here are some ways that veterinarians, researchers, behavior professionals and lay people have found that may be of help.

A phobia is defined as a sudden and intense response that is out of proportion to the actual threat.  It may take just one exposure to the perceived threat to make a lasting impression.  The dog’s behavior does not improve with gradual repeated exposures to the cause of fear.  

Your dog may begin trembling, show rapid eye blinking, hyper vigilance, ears held back, drooling and repetitive behaviors such as paw licking and being overly clingy or hiding.  There have been incidents where some dogs have jumped through glass windows or doors to get into or out of a house during a storm.  

Storms involve multiple components including a booming sound, a change in barometric pressure, wind, rain and lightning.   Sound is a major component.  Also when a storm approaches, there is an increase in static electricity in the atmosphere.  One theory is that the charged air can cause shocks to dogs.  Dogs with long or thick coats can be particularly affected. 

Two factors that can contribute to your dogs fearful response to an approaching storm could be having less exercise than usual or perhaps a person is absent that your dog might go to for comfort.  Your dog may also be reacting to your response to the situation.  

The following are some suggestions to help determine if static electricity is affecting your dog and how to help by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman:

• Wipe your dog down with anti-static laundry sheets
• Mist your dog with water from a spray bottle
• Spray the undersides of your dog’s paws with anti-static spray
• Make sure your dog is on a tile or linoleum floor
• Put your dog in the car and take her for a ride.  Dr. Dodman notes that “Many dogs are happy as bugs in a rug when put in a car and driven around during a storm.”

For more

• “Dogs Behaving Badly:  An A-Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavioral Problems in Dogs” by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman

 • “Help For Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears” by Nicole Wilde, CPDT

Many dogs will seek the comfort of a bathtub, lie under a sink or go to a basement during a storm because the plumbing in those areas provides grounding.  Some dogs will hide in their crate.  Provide a safe refuge for your dog by leaving open access to these areas. 

The use of body wraps such as a Thundershirt or an Anxiety Wrap has been shown to be beneficial as reported in a recent study conducted by Nicole Cottam, Nicholas H. Dodman and James Ha.  Body wraps look like little coats but are wrapped snuggly around your dog’s chest and torso.  They are designed to create tactile pressure that is thought to produce a calming effect on the nervous system.” The results of this study provide evidence that the Anxiety Wrap that was used in this study was therapeutic for thunderstorm phobia in many dogs and reduced the severity of clinical signs by almost 50%.”

Body wraps should be put on your dog before they are in a full-blown panic.  They should be removed when the storm is over. It’s wise to introduce and use the body wrap outside of the fear inducing situation frequently so it does not always foretell something bad. 

“Through a Dog’s Ear,” music to calm your dog, is a series of CD’s specifically developed for pets that can sometimes ease anxiety.

Misting the area where your dog might like to hide with dog appeasing pheromone spray may help as well.  Pheromones are chemicals transported in the air that mimic odor molecules which have a mood altering effect. 

Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 30 years of experience.

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