Friday, May 29, 2009

Stormy situations

I just checked the weather for this Saturday and Sunday — it shows a chance of thunderstorms both days.
How does your dog do in storms?
I’ve heard some horror stories from dog owners about bad storms, everything from dogs who completely freak out and rampage to dogs that will hide under beds or in bathtubs for hours, shaking all the while.
Unfortunately, it seems rather common for dogs to have an intense fear of thunderstorms.
How these fears develop is, I believe, highly circumstantial.
I could see dogs having an innate sense to take cover during storms — that much would make sense to me, as most wild animals tend to do so in some way.
But nature wouldn’t make dogs flip out during storms. That would be of no advantage to them.
So a fear of storms has got to come mostly from their past experiences.
Sensi does not fear storms. For all the mundane things in this world that make him panic, storms just aren’t one of them. He doesn’t like to be rained on, but he’s game for storm watching as long as it’s from a window or deck overhang.
While I don’t have a lot of experience in calming a dog who is scared by a storm, I do have some general advice and calming techniques that may be worth shot.
1. Don’t make the situation worse by freaking out or feeling bad for your dog. Dogs feed off our energy. Continue with life as normal.
2. If your dog is in full-blown panic mode, give it commands like come, sit, and lay down in a very calm but stern tone. This will help assert your leadership over the dog, and encourage the dog to trust your leadership and behave accordingly.
3. If your dog is hiding, shaking or has finally calmed to the point that he or she is sitting or laying, you might want to try some physical calming techniques, such as:
Pet your dog with gentle, long strokes. Don’t scratch or pat or rub. Start at your dog’s neck and run your hand along its back or belly slowly.
Gently massage or knead the dog’s favorite spots, like the neck or along the spine.
Also, massaging the dog’s cheeks where the upper and lower jaw meets encourages the dog to yawn. Yawning is one technique dogs use to calm themselves down.
At this point, you can also talk to your dog in a soothing tone of voice. Please be sure to make the distinction between baby talk and soothing. Baby talk is high-pitched, excitable speech that does not calm dogs. So if you’re going to open your mouth, make sure the voice that comes out is soothing, calming and reassuring.
Last but not least, if your dog truly turns into a terror because he is terrorized by storms, talk to your vet. Your vet can help you determine if drugs that help calm your dog are the right choice for stormy situations.

No comments:

Post a Comment