I was just sitting down to engage people on social media when I heard a clap of thunder. Not surprisingly and not long after, I heard Jake coming up the stairs to hide in the closet. Jake, like many dogs, is not a fan of thunder or fireworks. The fourth of July around here is not very much fun for him. The poor thing shakes and hides and drools something terrible during thunderstorms and any time the neighbors set off fireworks.
I’m sure some of you can relate. You may have a pet that reacts the same to loud noises. Even if your dog doesn’t, it’s no guarantee that it will never happen. Dogs who were never bothered by storms or loud noises can suddenly develop what is called a “noise phobia,” and it can take years to subside if ever.
When that happens, it’s important to take action and not ignore the behavior. Ignoring the behavior can lead to severe anxiety. So it is important that you prepare for this or your dog will never be the same again.
One thing to keep in mind is that once your dog enters full-on fear factor do your best not to console him/her with affection. This is a difficult concept to accept for most of us. Even I have difficulty with it because we all want out pets to feel safe and we want to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. Unfortunately, that method only works with humans who have the capability to rationalize. Animals don’t work that way. When we give affection during times of stress we are encouraging the behavior. In a sense, we are letting the animal know that it’s okay for them to be afraid and ultimately we make the problem worse. It sounds cruel, but if you put yourself in their “paws” it starts to make sense.
But there is something you can do. Some people swear by the ThunderShirt. I myself have never used one on my dogs, but I hear many people who swear by them. They say that the product has really helped tremendously for their dog. I may have to do some research on that, but it bears mentioning here. One thing to keep in mind is to put the shirt on before the storm comes around before the dog starts to get anxious. That way they make a positive association with the garment.
Another thing you can do is just be near them. The simple act of being near them will make them feel safe. You don’t have to pet them. Your presence is affection enough. Let them hide in their favorite spot and make them comfortable with a blanket and just hang out with her/him. As soon as they calm down, praise the hell out of them. Shower them with love, kisses, and treats.
However, while your dog is in panic mode don’t talk to them, don’t pet them, just be near them. If you must touch your pet make it something relaxing like a message, but don’t talk to them. Just get their blood flowing until they’ve relaxed. Or you can take mother nature as an example. When puppies are nervous, their mother calms them down by licking their face. You don’t have to lick your pup’s face, but you can stroke it with the back of your hand nice and slow. Do that a few times and it will spark memories of the pup’s mommy licking his/her face and that should help calm him/her down.
The important thing to remember is not to talk to them during stressful times. It doesn’t help and in fact, it just makes matters worse. I would love to hear from people who have used the ThunderShirt and their opinions. Feel free to leave a comment.