Storm phobia

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Murwillumbah Veterinary Clinic
8-10 Queen St
NSW 2484

02 6672 1919
02 6672 1918

Steps to calm your storm-phobic dog

 If your dog is fearful of thunder, they are exhibiting one of the most common phobias that effect dogs. Dogs also react to lightning, explosive noises, popping balloons and many other noises that are part of everyday life to us. 

If your dog is sensitive to thunder, this 8-point plan can be very useful.

1. Predict the problem
Thunder is reasonably predictable, they mostly occur in the afternoon and evening, and weather forecasts are now every area specific. The major problem with thunderstorms is that your dog will be able to predict the thunderstorm before you can through their heightened senses, so you need to predict them better. Take action BEFORE the storm. 

2. Be home with your dog
Your dog will be much more fearful if they are left alone during the thunderstorm. If you have predicted a thunder storm, if at all possible be with your dog (or have somebody else be there).  Remove your dog from the garden.  Dogs left outside during a thunder storm will be more seriously affected than those inside. Dogs can damage themselves trying to escape the storm, doing damage to your house and garden in the process. The best place for your dog is inside in a sound-proof den. 

3. Place your dog in a sound-proof den
A sound-proof den is relatively simple to make. Go from room to room to find the most sound-proof location (some suggestions are brick laundries and walk in wardrobes). This will become your dogs den, make it comfortable and happy in this room when it is not thundering. Then when it is going to storm then it is one of their safe havens. 

4. Use masking noise
Another way of reducing the reaction to the noise of thunder it so add other noises. Play the radio, put on a tranquil stream, or a white noise track in your dogs den. This will help mask those scary sounds.

5. Practice calming strategies
When your dog is panicking it needs to develop a calm demeanour. It is your job to do what you need to do to create calmness. Hugging and comforting the dog, putting a thunder shirt on, and staying calm yourself are great ways of help your dog find its “calm”. Calming massage on the major muscles of the head can also be helpful. 

6. Use pheromones
Dog Appeasement Pheromone (Adaptil or DAP) can be very effective for calming noise-fearful dogs. One study showed 70% of dogs improved when using this pheromone therapy. A impregnated collar or plug-in diffuser can be used to surround your dog with the smell of its mum, and memories of calm and comfort are stimulated.

7. Use medication
If your dog is seriously affected by storm phobia then prescription medication may be needed. These must be given at the right time and the right dose to help your dog, so treatment trials are important. 

8. Desensitise your dog
Desensitising is a process which we can help guide you and your dog through. It involves exposing your dog to the noise of thunder storms at such a low level that the show no fear. Then gradually increasing the volume, they must stay calm and content while you do this. It takes a long time to desensitise dogs, and requires a high level of patience, if you do it wrong it doesn’t work.  Look up "Sound Proof Puppy training" to gain access to apps that help with all kinds of potentially scary noises.

Solving fear problems is complex and difficult. We are happy to consult about behaviour issues, and can also refer to you a Veterinary Behaviour Specialist if your dog’s problems are severe. 

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