Spring is upon us! The sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming. Unfortunately, spring time brings more than beautiful flowers: loud storms, pollen, and ticks to name a few challenges! In this blog post, we’ll talk about loud storms and dogs in particular.
Those strong storms can be quite scary for pets! What can you do to make your pets more comfortable? This is a very complex issue, but we have a few tips to help.
1. Don’t coddle. Dogs thrive on your attention. The best reward for most dogs is a loving pat from their owner. When you pet and love on your dog during a storm, you are rewarding him for a fearful/bad behavior. Instead train an alternative behavior that you can praise!
2. Train an alternative behavior. In Dr. Katie’s house, she trained her dogs to “get in your bed.” When she gives this command, her dogs go lay in their dog beds. During a storm she will move the bed where the dogs feel safe, give the command, and reward her dogs for calmly resting in their beds. This is an example of alternative behavior. Other behaviors to consider: sitting calmly at your feet, playing fetch, hide-and-go-seek, and etc.. But what if your dog refuses to be distracted? Providing a safe place to weather the storm can help.
3. Provide a safe place. One of Dr. Katie’s dogs will not allow distraction during a storm. Instead she prefers to lie on the bathroom floor. Since she is calm in there, Dr. Katie always makes sure the door is open during a storm. She also turns on the bathroom fan and a white noise machine to help with loud noises. We don’t recommend closing a pet in their “safe zone,” because frantic attempts to get out could result in injury. It’s ok to let your dog stay in his safe spot during a storm.
4. Over the counter anti-anxiety products. There are a number of over the counter products and supplements that can help. For example, some dogs do well with a “Thunder shirt.” Others respond to Dog Appeasing Pheromone products. Please call us to find out about other supplements that might work for your dog.
5. Prescription medications. Some dogs are just plain terrified and may need extra help addressing their fears. For these dogs, we can prescribe medications to help keep them calm during a storm. Every pet is different, so we will need to examine your pet and discuss your pet’s individual needs to choose an appropriate medication. It is important to understand that there is no medication that will cure your pet’s anxiety. Medications are tools that can only help in conjunction with active training and behavior modification.