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Any suggestions for dog terrified of thunder/lightening?

yennyfire

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My poor puppy (ok, she's almost 3, but she's still my puppy) is terrified of storms. We rescued her about 2.5 years ago and at the time, she had bigger problems than a fear of thunder/lightening. We've overcome all of this issues, but as time has passed, she's become more and more frightened of storms, to the point that she cowers in my lap, shaking from ear to tail. It is heartbreaking, not to mention that she's really too big to be a lapdog, though I'm happy to try to comfort her. Nothing seems to help. She just cowers on my lap,trembling until it's over. Any ideas/suggestions? She's breaking my heart.

zoe%20resized.jpg
 

Haven

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ChloeTheGreat|1303772505|2904853 said:
I've heard good things about that, too.
My family's dog Tallulah has been terrified of storms her entire life. She's a Border Collie mix and she digs endlessly during storms. Years ago we got a prescription for doggie downers for her and we give her half a pill before major storms. It isn't the ideal situation, but it calms her down to the point that she isn't terrified during storms anymore. (And she doesn't dig holes through walls or bathtubs anymore, either.)

Our new Shih Tzu is terrified of storms and I'm going to order a wrap for him right now. We've had him since October and we've just had our first big storms with him. Poor baby shakes so much during the storms.

ETA: Adorable pup, Yennyfire! That face is to die for!
 

Gypsy

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Not sure if this is a help, but what we did with Shelia is just make her kennel the most comfortable safe and happy place for her. It wasn't her 'bad dog' place. It was very much her happy place and whenever she was in her kennel she got a TON of praise for being a "good girl" or "the best doggie ever". Whenever she would get upset with storms we would put her in the kennel and sit with her there. Repeating to her that she was safe. At first her head would be in my lap. After a while we would sit farther way during storms. Still repeating "You are safe honey. This (emphasis) is your SAFE PLACE." Then after a while (months really) if there was a storm and she'd start trembling we'd say "Where's your safe place"... she'd run to the kennel. And she'd chew a bone or whatever we'd put in there for her to chew on (she is a HUGE chewer). Now the minute she gets scared she's in her kennel by herself. When no one is home and a storm hits... kennel.

But we got her a SUPER huge kennel, lots of room for her to sprawl and turn and flop. Covered it. Put a fluffy dog bed inside. Put all sorts of toys and treats in there. And really worked with a trainer when we first rescued her (she had a not of anxiety issues) to get her kennel trained IN THE WAY WE WANTED. Which was that the kennel is a GOOD place. It's Shelia's room. When she's there she's a good dog. No one, not even our cats, were allowed in her 'room.' It was very much her den.

Many pet owners seem to use th kennel as a punishment. We found that our trainer/behavioralist's recommendation to always have it be a good place worked much better for us with her personality. She was a rescue with a LOT of behavioral quirks.

ETA: I should also add that Shelia is a 90-100 pound Shepard lab mix so... it really wasn't feasible for her to crawl into our laps whenever she was scared. We needed a solution for her that would work with all sorts of anxiety issues (not just storms) for a big dog. That's why our trainer recommended the kennel. I have to say,I've seen a lot of smaller dogs that could benefit from the kennel as a good place training. People seem to think that because small dogs are smaller they should be trained differently. But according to our trainer and our animal behavioralist... that can be a big mistake that re-inforces small dog's anxiety problems, instead of helping them develop tools to help themselves. Shelia had complete authority for when she used her kennel. Door was always open for her. And empowering her by giving her a 'safe place' was the best thing we ever did for her.
 

lliang_chi

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I second Gypsy's comment on crate training. It's the best thing you can do for your dog.

My dog's OK during storms, but I'll make a suggestion my neighbor received. His dog is actually a trained pheasant dog, but she's gun-shy. She LOVES tracking and hunting, but she just doesn't like the guns. So he tried getting her accustomed to loud noises. During a "happy time" like feeding, he'd bang pots in another room. Then slowly get closer and closer so she'd get accustomed to loud noises. If you don't want to bang pots, try playing an old WW2 war movie, like Patton, during one of the battle scenes. Start with the volume low, then slowly increase volume.

Don't know if this works or not but just thought I'd suggest it.
 

stci

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My blue Great Dane passed away a few years and she was horrified of thunder.

All I found to help her was to embrace and keep close to me. My big big baby was shaking and crying when thunder arrived. OMG! I remember her face... she was so sad... I miss her so much today! Her name was Azure.... rest in peace sweat heart... :(sad

animaux02.jpg
 

JewelFreak

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It's counter-intuitive but behaviorists recommend NOT making a big deal out of comforting your dog if he's afraid of thunder.

Thunder booms, your dog shows fear. You say nice things in a loving voice. He understands your tone, not your words. What does he hear? PRAISE for his behavior. He thinks he's doing something GOOD. The more afraid he feels, the bigger his "reward." Natural behavior on both your parts. But it makes the problem worse.

An important training axiom: Never inadvertantly reward behavior you want to discourage.

A kennel or dog blanket/pillow as a safe comforting place is great. Important to give him something to do: it distracts him AND when he does it right, he is praised for THAT action, not for fear. Even if it is the command to "kennel up" or "lie down," PRAISE. Chew toys help, or keep a special toy he adores just for storms. You can run him through obedience commands as a distraction during a storm: sit, down, stand, come, stay, or more advanced. And PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE. Play a game. Whatever you do, if he behaves fearfully, IGNORE him completely. You do not want him to perceive any reward for that behavior. (It's hard!) That's when you give him something new to do & reward for it.

May take a little time. If you keep to it, you'll find your dog much less fearful.

--- Laurie
 

yennyfire

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Aww Stci, she's beautiful! I'm so sorry that she passed.

Thanks Haven, we think she's pretty cute too! ;)) I jokingly mentioned doggie valium last night during the storm. It didn't occur to me that it exists!

I'll check out that thundervest, though I think Jewelfreak's reminder that we've been inadvertently reinforcing her behavior makes complete sense and I think we'll try NOT comforting her excessively. Her crate is already her safe place. Like Gypsy's dog, Zoe' crate is very large (enough for her to roll around) with a fluffy mat on the bottom with plenty of toys and things to chew. She runs in there when she wants to get away from the kids and we've taught them that when she goes in there, they have to leave her alone. So, maybe working to make that her safe place during storms is a good way to go too.

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'll keep you posted on our progress!
 

Miss Sparkly

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JewelFreak|1303819700|2905234 said:
It's counter-intuitive but behaviorists recommend NOT making a big deal out of comforting your dog if he's afraid of thunder.

Thunder booms, your dog shows fear. You say nice things in a loving voice. He understands your tone, not your words. What does he hear? PRAISE for his behavior. He thinks he's doing something GOOD. The more afraid he feels, the bigger his "reward." Natural behavior on both your parts. But it makes the problem worse.

An important training axiom: Never inadvertantly reward behavior you want to discourage.

A kennel or dog blanket/pillow as a safe comforting place is great. Important to give him something to do: it distracts him AND when he does it right, he is praised for THAT action, not for fear. Even if it is the command to "kennel up" or "lie down," PRAISE. Chew toys help, or keep a special toy he adores just for storms. You can run him through obedience commands as a distraction during a storm: sit, down, stand, come, stay, or more advanced. And PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE. Play a game. Whatever you do, if he behaves fearfully, IGNORE him completely. You do not want him to perceive any reward for that behavior. (It's hard!) That's when you give him something new to do & reward for it.

May take a little time. If you keep to it, you'll find your dog much less fearful.

--- Laurie
THANK YOU! It always irks me when people treat their dogs like humans. They're not humans, they're dogs and they behave differently. What about a kong toy and crate training. Once she's crate trained you can give her a kong stuffed with her favorite treats/peanut butter. That way she's in a safe place and distracted by something yummy!
 

yennyfire

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She loves her kong with peanut butter in it...putting that in her crate during storms would be a great distraction! Thanks sparklyblonde!
 

JewelFreak

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I'll go in with her! A nice cozy pillowed condo & peanut butter -- who could ask for more? :tongue:

Good suggestion, SB.

--- Laurie
 

Haven

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Sparkly Blonde|1303821824|2905246 said:
JewelFreak|1303819700|2905234 said:
It's counter-intuitive but behaviorists recommend NOT making a big deal out of comforting your dog if he's afraid of thunder.

Thunder booms, your dog shows fear. You say nice things in a loving voice. He understands your tone, not your words. What does he hear? PRAISE for his behavior. He thinks he's doing something GOOD. The more afraid he feels, the bigger his "reward." Natural behavior on both your parts. But it makes the problem worse.

An important training axiom: Never inadvertantly reward behavior you want to discourage.

A kennel or dog blanket/pillow as a safe comforting place is great. Important to give him something to do: it distracts him AND when he does it right, he is praised for THAT action, not for fear. Even if it is the command to "kennel up" or "lie down," PRAISE. Chew toys help, or keep a special toy he adores just for storms. You can run him through obedience commands as a distraction during a storm: sit, down, stand, come, stay, or more advanced. And PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE. Play a game. Whatever you do, if he behaves fearfully, IGNORE him completely. You do not want him to perceive any reward for that behavior. (It's hard!) That's when you give him something new to do & reward for it.

May take a little time. If you keep to it, you'll find your dog much less fearful.

--- Laurie
THANK YOU! It always irks me when people treat their dogs like humans. They're not humans, they're dogs and they behave differently. What about a kong toy and crate training. Once she's crate trained you can give her a kong stuffed with her favorite treats/peanut butter. That way she's in a safe place and distracted by something yummy!
I completely agree.
SparklyBlonde--You sound just like my DH! Whenever we come home from visiting my mom's house he walks around saying "Dogs are not humans! They are NOT HUMANS!" As you can see, my mom treats her pups as if they were . . . humans. :cheeky:
 

violet3

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If you don't want to order the wrapp-y thing and want to give the idea a try, my sister read about putting one of your t-shirts on her and tying it tight in a knot around her waist. It's supposed to give the same effect, if you want to try it out!
 

redfaerythinker

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I've also heard good things about the thundershirt. It's actually been used very successfully in many different ways from calming autism sufferers to calming cattle. I'd just like to add two ideas to the mix. I've heard that for some dogs, it's the static in the air that bothers them and if you just run a dryer sheet over them it cuts the static and they feel better. Also why don't you try some training. When Hera was a puppy, we would do some simple training exercises with REALLY yummy treats and that totally kept her mind off of the storm. Throwing treats at big scary things is usually really successful at our house.
 

yennyfire

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Aww redfaerythinker, if that's Hera in your avatar, she's adorable! Thanks for the great suggestions!
 

confusedaisy

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I never heard about the Thundershirt- very, very interesting!!

I have an 8 year old Chi/Papillion mix and she is deathly afraid of thunder. She usually tells me when she hears it (stops whatever she's doing and perks her ears- once her suspicions are confirmed she bolts off the bed/couch and starts pacing...) and then I put her in my walk in closet. It has no windows and I always keep a little pillow in there for her. I turn on the light and leave her in there until the thunder stops. She used to bark when I first tried this (I even slept in there with her a few nights because she used to have separation anxiety) but now she loves going into the closet- it's her safe zone. Sometimes she's even waiting for me to open the door so she can get in. The things we do for our loves!!
 

yennyfire

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Yeah, Zoe seems to know that a storm is coming before we do...another one is brewing right now and she won't eat her dinner b/c of it.
 

redfaerythinker

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Awww, thanks! I think she's pretty cute myself. :love: If I remember correctly we live within a few miles of each other so I hope you're staying safe in the nasty weather tonight! :nono: The last storm took out over thirty trees within a block radius of us. :-o
 

Kaleigh

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I never heard of the thundershirt... Casper is 17 hated thunder storms but is deaf now, so it's a non issue.. I would know a storm was coming hours before one would hit.. He would shake like a jack hammer, oh it was awful. I just held him tight, and gave him a homeopathic medicne to try and make him sleep....

Hope you find what works with your cutie pie. My other dog , she doesn't get scared at all. All she wants to know is when do I get fed next, LOL.... :snore:
 
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