Ah, spring! We love your warm days, green grass, new flowers and loud, booming thunderstorms. However, not all creatures enjoy the rumbles of thunder or the sound of rain on the roof. Thunderstorm phobia is a condition commonly found in dogs of all breeds and sizes. Some dogs display mild signs such as pacing, panting, hiding and excessive drooling. Other dogs have strong fear signs and have been known to destroy everything in their path, possibly causing severe injury to themselves.
There is help for these scared pooches. With the help of your veterinarian, you and your dog may be able to control these situations by a behavior technique called “desensitization”. This systemic approach is used to gently introduce your dog to sounds associated with thunderstorms, such as softly recorded thunder and lightning flashes. The dog is then rewarded with treats or other positive reinforcement only when no signs of anxiety are exhibited. The stimulus is gradually increased as the dog learns that positive behavior will be rewarded.
Some dogs may need medical assistance in addition to behavior modification. There are a few different medications that your veterinarian can prescribe to help relax and decrease anxiety in the advanced cases. It is also important to provide a place for your pet to hide, such as a kennel, back bedroom or a dark basement. Make sure that he can access this area whenever needed.
The most important thing to remember is to remain calm. Do not hug or cuddle your pet when you observe these signs because the dog thinks of this as rewarding negative behavior. Calmly talking to your dog and finding a safe, secure place is the best thing for your pet. Give us a call - we can help!