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Helping your dog during thunderstorms

How to eleviate some of your dog's bad weather stress

Radio interview source: Dr. Kari Wallentine, veterinarian, Kansas State University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen here for the radio story

Why so scared?

Why do some dogs fear thunderstorms? Nobody's quite sure. It could be the flash of lightening, the loud noise, or even sensitivity to changes in air pressure. In extreme cases, dogs have been known to jump through glass windows during storms. Others will hide, throw-up or mess all over the floor.

When I was a kid, we had a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Johnny who would hide under our station wagon whenever a storm rolled through. One night Mom went out to take us kids to our grandparents' during some rough weather, and she backed over Johnny, breaking his jaw. Fortunately, the vet was able to pin it back together, and Johnny lived for several more years.

Veterinarian Dr. Kari Wallentine at Kansas State University is working on a Master's degree in animal behavior. Her dog, a greyhound named Anna, hides in the closet during storms and she lets her stay there.

"The best thing for owners to do is try and ignore the fearful behavior even though at times depending on what the dog is doing, that can be really difficult," Wallentine says. "But we know that punishing a dog's fearful behavior or even reinforcing it by reassuring the dog can both lead to increased fear so those are two things we want to try not to do."

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Comments (1)

jeanne.g.nelson wrote:
We had a wonderful German Shorthaired Pointer who was terrified of thunderstorms. Despite all of our efforts, including the ones mentioned in this article, nothing worked. We couldn't ignore her because she ripped out our plumbing, took doors off hinges and pulled all the clothing down in our closets. No amount of comfort, training or shelters helped. We hired a well-known and respected and highly recommended animal psychologist to no avail. The only thing that worked was to give her a vet-prescribed tranquilizer if we knew a storm was coming; that did not comfort her but it kept her from injuring herself (which she did when she went on rampage) and destroying our house. We made sure she got plenty of exercise, love, attention, a proper diet and regular vet care, but we could never solve her phobia of thunderstorms, as well as fireworks. We all coped until she died of natural causes at age 11. When a previous dog, my Lab-Pointer mix, was a puppy he had a purebred Irish Setter puppy friend whose owner wanted to show her at field trials but she was terrified of the noise that gun shots made. Whoever is able to solve this problem in dogs will be a genius and quite beloved of long-suffering dog owners!