Q: My dog hates thunderstorms. What should I do?
My dog is a “wreck” during thunderstorms. If home alone, she makes the house a wreck, too. What’s the solution?
For some dogs who hate thunderstorms, a combination of desensitization to loud noises and medication for anxiety helps. However, thunderstorm phobias are among the toughest problems faced by behaviorists (and dogs).
Normally dogs “habituate,” learning to accept to loud noises as they mature — and discover that no harm ever comes from certain sounds. The sound of exploding fireworks is another example: “Big boom, bright lights but nothing bad happened to me,” the dog is supposed to think.
Owners of thunderstorm-phobic dogs usually can’t recall any traumatic incident that created lasting anxiety in the dog’s mind. Apparently the dog makes some association — becoming agitated long before the storm actually reaches his house. The owners come home to the effects of a canine “tornado” inside the house. You want to hug the poor trembling dog — but that just validates its fears.
Ask your veterinarian for a referral to as behavior expert who offers sound-desensitization therapy. Anti-anxiety medication, administered when the weather forecast calls for storms, might help Some workplaces allow dogs “with a doctor’s excuse” on stormy days. Other employers let dog owner’s work from home.
Lightning never strikes twice, but thunderstorm phobia does.
Thanks to the vets at BluePearl Veterinary Partners (bluepearlvet.com) for this answer.
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