Author Topic: Dog Afraid of Thunder  (Read 2395 times)

Offline AleTron

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Dog Afraid of Thunder
« on: July 09, 2011, 08:26:33 AM »
Hey there everyone, I am just wondering about my almost 11 year female Chihuahua x Rat Terrier mix. She is so afraid of the thunder, that she will sit there and shake and shake and run around trying to get underneath the bed or the desk or anything she can hide under. She goes back and forth, looking rather uncomfortable and stressed while this is happening. It seems to be getting worse with age and since we are in the summer storm season, I am wondering what I can do to bring her stress level down when this is happening. I know its not the worst case of thunder scares, but still seeing her stressing is hard for me. I have tried making her little cave-like houses or hiding her underneath blankets, but as soon as the house shakes and the thunder claps, she freaks. Any information would be much appreciated, thanks.
Dakota - 15yr female Tabby Cat.
Dottie - 11yr female Chi x Terrier Mix.

Ratties
The Bridge Ladies:
Magnolia, Ruby, Honey & Ruca.
The Bridge Lads:
Jack, Skunk, Sensi, Diesel & Cheech.

Offline strangeduck

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2011, 12:46:51 PM »
Can you talk to your vet about prescribing something for nerves during this time? 

My Charlie is very anxious about car rides....he cries the whole time and shakes and pants excessively.  I give him a dose of children's benedryl because it makes him sleepy, but I don't recommend trying this without talking to your vet.
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Offline Daydreaming07

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2011, 05:35:31 PM »
Have you tried a thunder shirt? I have heard that a lot of people have had great success with them.
Other than that the only advise I can give is if she is stressing completely ignore her no petting or attention of any kind keep some of her favorite treats near you and any time she is calm give her a treat and a lot of praise.

Offline Daydreaming07

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2011, 05:36:11 PM »
Oh forgot the link for the thunder shirt!
http://www.thundershirt.com/?gclid=CI7fgP7c96kCFQ2A5QodWXg9sw

Offline Kati33

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2011, 08:33:45 PM »
They make thunderstorm CDs that can be used for training. You start playing them at a really low volume level (one where the dog doesn't react at all) while they are doing something fun- eating, playing, etc. You then gradually increase the volume so they can associate good things with the storms. I'm sure there are much more detailed info out there if you look for it. I definately agree with Daydreaming- don't try to comfort her- the attention is reinforcing the behavior telling her "it's good to be scared" and can actually make the behavior worse.
Kati33
Watusi, Charolais, Orca, Puffin, Sloth and Sifaka the Rats
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Past Rats: Jag, Otter, Wolf, Frog, Bear, Moose, Emu as in Komodo Dragon, Squirrel, Turtle, Elephant, Ox, Opossum, Octopus, Okapi, Cassowary, Goose, Squid, Coati, Flamingo, Zebu, Bo(vine)

Offline eyohkay

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2011, 11:18:32 PM »
If you find something that works, let me know.   ::)

However, I completely disagree with not comforting her.  Being afraid of thunder (or fireworks, etc) is an emotion, not a behavior.  Thunder is something we will never be able to make them understand.  It's not something we can reinforce or train out of them.

As far as the thunder CD's go, Bo doesn't even notice them.  It may work for some dogs, but not for us.  Something about real thunder scares him in a way that just the audio doesn't.  I'd be interested in seeing how well the thundershirt works, but I haven't looked into it much.

Bo pants heavily, shivers to the point of practically vibrating, and paces in fear.  He likes to snuggle up close during storms, and we let him.  Normally, he lays against my chest while I hold him close and tight, and this seems to help calm him some.  He also has a safe place, should he choose to use it... a large dog carrier with some pillows and comfy blankets in one of the interior rooms of the house. 

We've held him during every storm for almost a year now, and his fear hasn't worsened as a result.  It's just something we have to ride out.

Offline Daydreaming07

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2011, 12:23:55 AM »
I completely disagree with not being able to train fear out of a dog. What about a dog that is terrified of people do you not socialize and train that fear out of the dog? Or a dog that is scared to go to a vet do you not take treats and work on training that fear out of the dog?

Comforting the dog in situations that the dog is scared of simply reinforce the behavior it may not get worse but it will never get better. You are simply telling the dog that its fear is ok instead of telling the dog that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Offline slynx

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2011, 02:05:15 PM »
A very nice, scientifically-based article about reinforcing fear: http://www.thebark.com/content/both-ends-leash-fear-reduction

In a nutshell, comforting your thunder-phobic dog during a storm will not increase her fear.  It can only make her feel better (but might not...don't take it personally!).

Noise phobias are pretty hard to work with, although if you're experienced with counter-conditioning and desensitization, I think it makes sense to try to pair positive experiences (treats! petting! fetch!) with a very low-level of the aversive experience (the thunder CD would be one way to do that).  The problem is that real thunder can be so overwhelming that even counter conditioning can only get you so far.  FWIW, I am a big believer in preventative conditioning -- my dog is not noise phobic, but any time I am home during storms, I play games and give her delicious meaty treats for the duration.  She's 2 1/2, so she's right at the age (2-4 years) when most dogs develop the beginnings of noise phobias, so I figure it can't hurt!

Thunder shirts are definitely something to try.  Similar to being hugged or swaddled, they provide positive feelings for a dog.  My dog loves hers -- she isn't noise-phobic, but has plenty of other anxiety-related behaviors -- and you can increase the positive associations of a thundershirt by pairing it with positive experiences in the absence of thunder.  Putting it on for car rides or mealtimes, for example.  A DAP diffuser or collar is another "can't hurt, might help" thing to try.  DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromones, so it's basically a source of comfort through scent.

Other than that, if the fear is debilitating it would definitely be worth talking to your vet about sedatives or other temporary pharmaceutical aid for your dog.  Even though we know thunder isn't dangerous, it can feel overwhelmingly so for dogs, and that's a terrible thing for them to have to experience.  I know several people who keep meds on hand for fireworks and particularly bad storms, just to help their dog make it through.

Good luck!

Offline Dragonfly

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2011, 04:41:40 PM »
I really enjoyed that article, It gave some valid insights. Luckily I have been blessed with the perfect puppy (well, dog). Diver doesn't seem to be afraid of anything.. except the husband shouting. He has no reaction to changes in weather. Oh, that's a lie... he only reacts to snow storms but only because he LOVES them and wants to go outside and chase snowflakes. 

Diver has actually helped to alleviate my fear of thunderstorms. I actually almost enjoy now because my lack of fear allows me to enjoy the beauty of them now.

Fireworks are a different matter, but only at first. At the first boom he panics and runs in whatever direction is close to me or leaf(leaf is the husband guy) and then calms down and watches the rest. I have to get a picture of it. He literally watches them, sitting and staring at the sky, cocking his head as the colors flash in the sky.
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Offline AleTron

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Re: Dog Afraid of Thunder
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2011, 12:22:42 PM »
Thanks so much for the information. I think that cuddling and swaddling help her more then actually speaking to her. So when she does ran around and freak out like that, I scope her up and just hold her against me while she shutters. I am kind of torn on the matter of emotions to behavior, because its hard to express that kind of thing when it comes to the individual dog and owner. I think perhaps I will talk to my vet about the thundershirt and see where that goes. Thanks for the information :]
Dakota - 15yr female Tabby Cat.
Dottie - 11yr female Chi x Terrier Mix.

Ratties
The Bridge Ladies:
Magnolia, Ruby, Honey & Ruca.
The Bridge Lads:
Jack, Skunk, Sensi, Diesel & Cheech.