Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Storms on their way; how will your dog react?

Leave it to my dog to be finicky about what loud noises scare him and what loud noises don’t.
Fireworks fall into the “terrifying” category for him. Thunderstorms, on the other hand, not so much.
I’m lucky, I know. And many of you out there are unlucky.
Of all the my-dog-hates-thunderstorms stories that I’ve heard, the most surprising to me was from a coworker who said his dog liked to hide in the bathtub when storms rolled in.
I find this weird because generally, dogs don’t equate bathtubs with safety. Bathtubs, to a dog, are usually little more than a reminder of a much loathed activity — the bath.
What does your dog do in a thunderstorm?
I read a great blog yesterday with some suggestions on dealing with thunderstorm anxiety.
The first suggestion was treat therapy, which I am using (and starting to see signs of success) to rehab Sensi’s intense fear of fireworks. I like this idea, but I also know that when a dog is overcome by fear, he is not likely to eat a treat.
If you can get your dog to take a treat, consider yourself golden and go with it. If you can’t, you need to work on lowering the dog’s anxiety to the point where he will take a treat.
Susan McCullough, author of the blog, suggested using a snug t-shirt or purchasing some snug dog wear (one is actually called the Thundershirt) to help calm your dog.
This made me think of Temple Grandin’s squeeze machine. Grandin is autistic and often felt anxious and overwhelmed. While working on her aunt’s ranch, she watched as one cow after another would enter this squeeze chute (the machine’s purpose was to hold the cow still so it could be vaccinated) and suddenly become totally relaxed.
She wanted to try it herself and found the feeling so relaxing that she made a similar machine just for herself. So, there’s a lot to be said for how that tight hug feeling can impact a person’s and an animal’s mood.
McCullough offers some other tips, too. Check her full blog here, and good luck with those storms today!

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