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Dog Terrified of Thunder

HefflingHeffling No PicEverRegistered User regular
We have a 3-1/2 year old mutt (dna test showed she's got a bit of everything) who used to be terrified of all loud bass noises (like trucks), but now is just terrified of Thunder. She is not very food nor toy motivated, but loves walks more than anything.

Right now, when thunder starts, she becomes very anxious. She will start to shake, and will run to find a place to hide. Normally she hides under my desk, but she will hide under my wife's desk also until my wife shoos her out. I let her stay under my desk and just leave her be, because I don't want to reinforce the frightened behaviour, but I want her to have a safe place so she can calm down.

We've been trying to keep an eye on the weather reports, and take her for walks when we see we will get thunderstorms soon, so that she will hopefully be distracted from the thunder by the walk. We've had some success with this, but it's been mixed. Usually she can tolerate somewhat louder thunder, but once a good crack happens she either cowers between our legs or will try to head straight back to the house.

Last night she did ok on the walk, we did a mile round trip with the thunder happening 3-5 miles away, so it was relatively quiet. She didn't start to get nervous till we were almost home and the thunder was louder. After dropping the wife off (she has back issues and has to limit walks), I took her for another half mile off leash. She stayed her usual spot about 15-20 feet ahead of me until we were almost home and a big nearby strike happened, at which point she ran straight into the garage and wouldn't come out again.

I know she really loves car trips, so that's the next thing to try to see if the excitement will overcome the tstorm and we can start associating good things with thunder.

Anyone have any other non-medication suggestions? Or just experiences you want to share?

Posts

  • ChallChall Registered User regular
    A common recommendation for this would be a Thunder shirt, whish is designed for exactly your problem, it's a tight fitting shirt that helps them feel secure.
    https://www.chewy.com/thundershirt-classic-anxiety-vest/dp/41103

    Our dog didn't respond to the shirt, but we had success with calming collars which you just slip on and it has a calming scent. https://www.chewy.com/sentry-good-behavior-calming-collar/dp/182273

    ElvenshaeLostNinjaHefflingCapt HowdySimpsonia
  • CelloCello Registered User regular
    edited January 20
    To be honest this is a pretty tough one because it is a. Extremely loud and b. Particularly tough for anxious dogs and especially sound sensitive dogs. Definitely be sure whatever training you engage in means you'll have control of the dog (the car is a good idea, or having the leash in open spaces) since they correlate highly to dogs running away and all.

    You're on the right track by trying to engage them with fun activities during storms and trying to work through repeated exposure; if a behaviour is repeatable, it can be trained out, is the general rule

    The one thing that is counter-intuitive is that when your dog is scared, do not comfort them with petting or reassuring tones. Comforting effectively teaches the dog that the fear they are feeling is justified and rewards them for the behaviour. What a dog is actually seeking is confidence/leadership - a direct tone of voice asserting "don't be silly" or that sort of thing, and then remaining nonchalant about the experience, so they can see that you are not afraid. Pairing that with a nice event that will get that endorphin rush going is the best you can manage, though anticipate it to be slow-going since you can't exactly rain dance to bring the thunder around on a regular basis, hahaha. (You could likely take advantage of fireworks days to get the same effect as well.) This is also a training time where you can't go wrong with copious treats.

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  • Local H JayLocal H Jay Registered User regular
    My dog does this but just barks at the thunder. He's more scared by fireworks. But now I'm gonna look into one of these items to maybe help him calm down. I unfortunately live on a street with dickheads who set off fireworks year round for seemingly no reason so I feel really bad for my pup when it happens

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  • HefflingHeffling No Pic EverRegistered User regular
    Cello wrote: »
    To be honest this is a pretty tough one because it is a. Extremely loud and b. Particularly tough for anxious dogs and especially sound sensitive dogs. Definitely be sure whatever training you engage in means you'll have control of the dog (the car is a good idea, or having the leash in open spaces) since they correlate highly to dogs running away and all.

    You're on the right track by trying to engage them with fun activities during storms and trying to work through repeated exposure; if a behaviour is repeatable, it can be trained out, is the general rule

    The one thing that is counter-intuitive is that when your dog is scared, do not comfort them with petting or reassuring tones. Comforting effectively teaches the dog that the fear they are feeling is justified and rewards them for the behaviour. What a dog is actually seeking is confidence/leadership - a direct tone of voice asserting "don't be silly" or that sort of thing, and then remaining nonchalant about the experience, so they can see that you are not afraid. Pairing that with a nice event that will get that endorphin rush going is the best you can manage, though anticipate it to be slow-going since you can't exactly rain dance to bring the thunder around on a regular basis, hahaha. (You could likely take advantage of fireworks days to get the same effect as well.) This is also a training time where you can't go wrong with copious treats.

    Yep, we don't give Rose any attention or comforting when she's scared because we know that can reinforce the behavior.

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I ordered a dog snuggy and pheromone spray that I can put on the snuggy. We'll see how she does.

    CelloChallCalica
  • FiendishrabbitFiendishrabbit Registered User regular
    The number one strategy is always treating the storm as nothing to be afraid of. No reassuring tones or petting etc. Instead stick to normal tones and use a body language that indicates that there is nothing to fear (calm but normal voice, sleepy blinking etc).

    If the dog does seek you out you can do tension-relieving massage (focusing on tense muscle-groups in the shoulders, neck and head) rather than petting.

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  • HefflingHeffling No Pic EverRegistered User regular
    We haven't had a thunderstorm for a few weeks, but we did get a lot of hard rain yesterday. Rose did not want to come out on the patio with me while it was raining, but once I put on the vest and applied the scent she came out and sat with me while I read on my kindle for 10 minutes. That was enough time for her to fully calm down and relax and a spend a few minutes that way. So far, very promising!

    ElvenshaeTychoCelchuuuLocal H JaychromdomChallStrikorApogeeSiskaFiendishrabbit
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