Dog’s Eye View: Is it going to rain again?
You may have a dog that suffers from thunderstorm phobia or 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. Following are some strategies 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 only 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 and hyper vigilance, hold its ears back, drool, engage in repetitive behaviors, such as paw licking, be overly clingy or hide. There have been incidents where some dogs have jumped through plate 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 might contribute to your dog’s fearful response to an approaching storm could be inadequate exercise or perhaps the absence of a to whom your dog might go to for comfort. Your dog may also be reacting to your response to the situation.
Following are some suggestions to help determine if static electricity is affecting your dog and tips that may help by Dr. Nicholas 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.
Dodman notes, “Many dogs are happy as bugs in a rug when put in a car and driven around during a storm.”
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™ was therapeutic for thunderstorm phobia in many dogs and reduced the severity of clinical signs by almost 50 percent.
Body wraps should be put on your dog before they are in a full-blown panic and removed when the storm is over. It’s wise to introduce and use the body wrap outside 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.
Is it going to rain again?
Misting areas in which 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. They have been known to ease anxiety in dogs. Check out these various products available online, at pet supply stores or possibly at your veterinary clinic.
In this area where storms tend to build up in the afternoon, coming home for lunch and putting your dog’s body wrap on, along with putting some of the other suggestions into place before you go back to work, might go a long way toward helping him during this thunderstorm season.
Stay on tap and tune in to the world of veterinary medicine to see if there might be new products coming out that could be helpful with noise sensitivity in dogs. Science is always advancing.
This column referenced the following sources.
- “Dogs Behaving Badly: An A-Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavioral Problems in Dogs” by Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Bantam Books, 1999
- “Help For Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears”
by Nicole Wilde, CPDT, Phantom Publishing, Santa Clarita CA 2006
- “The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobias. An open label trial”. Department of Clinical Sciences, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, MA and Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. “Journal of Veterinary Behavior”, 2012
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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