Thunder and Lightning - How To Help Your Dog's Storm Phobias

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How To Help Your Dog's Storm Phobias

Many dogs that fear storm activity also fear other sharp percussive noises, such
as gunfire, exploding balloons, or low frequency sounds from a sound system
capable of rattling the windows. Because storm noises originate outdoors, any
attempts to simulate storm noises or other loud sounds should originate there.
These can be tested and used with a routine which involves a single hand clap,
followed immediately by praise and introduction of some toy or other stimulus the
dog associated with happiness.

These staged performances should be repeated until the dog acts happy in
response to loud noises, without use of the above routine. After this stage, it is
still advisable to follow the same steps required for dogs that do not respond to
staged percussion. If gunfire is to be used in these sessions, the shells used
must be hand-loaded, low-powder blanks. The gun should be fired outdoors into
thick, soft material, such as an old pillow.

Only adults experienced with firearms should be involved. Also, neighbors should be forewarned of training sessions. If the dog does not respond to attempts at recreating storm sounds, the solution becomes more difficult, as one cannot conjure up storms at will. However, one
can watch the weather forecasts carefully and make preparations at least 3-4
hours before a storm is due.

This long lead time is necessary because many phobic dogs begin to show anxiety as falling barometric pressure indicates impending storms. In these situations, the training routine must be applied at the first sign of anxiety in the dog, and then reapplied until the dog shows upbeat
behavior instead of the former anxiety, without any need for the routine.

Sedatives: If the owner cannot be present to apply these procedures before and during storms, sedatives and tranquilizers may be used to reduce the dog's
anxiety. However, without behavioral therapy, such drugs have not been
effective over the long term.

Desensitizing With Sound and Light:

Though several authorities have recommended playing low-level thunder recordings and gradually increasing the volume as the dog accommodates to it, others in this field have not been
successful with this technique. For years trainers have tried using recordings of
thunder, coupled with flashing strobe lights, without success. This is probably
because of 2 factors unique to storms. First is the lack of barometric pressure
changes. Second is lack of the intense (to the dog) percussive effects of low-volume
thunder recordings.

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