Calm During the Storm: Help for Your Dog's Fear of Thunderstorms Part III
Last week on the Dogster Guide to Training, we discussed a number of reasons a dog might react fearfully to a thunderstorm. On Friday, I discussed recommendations you can use for dogs that react specifically to the sound of thunderstorms. It is my suspicion that the fear response is not limited to sound with many dogs - I believe that some dogs react to the static electrical charge in the air and others, to the change in atmospheric pressure. Some dogs may react to all three of these things.
If your dog reacts to the change in static electricity...
As mentioned last week, these dogs tend to try to "ground" themselves by seeking surfaces which are less likely to conduct static electricity - a rubber mat, a bathtub, or ceramic tile, for instance. If this sounds like your dog, there are a few things you can try:
- humidifiers - increasing the moisture in the air may prove helpful. If you have a small humidifier, you may want to restrict your dog to a particular room where the humidifier is located. It's a good idea to practice many relaxation exercises in this room regularly when there are no thunderstorms - this room should be a place where the dog hears relaxing music (like Through a Dog's Ear), enjoys therapeutic touch, Tellington Touch, massage, or reiki, practices relaxation exercises, etc.
- dryer sheet - ok, I don't like to use dryer sheets on a dog because they aren't exactly healthy. Some people have indicated that they have great luck calming a thunder-phobic dog during a storm if they wipe him down with a dryer sheet prior to the storm's arrival. Not a choice I would pursue, but one that works for many nonetheless.
- moistening the coat - just like moist air is less likely to transmit a charge than dry air (static shocks in the home are often most common during dry winter months and significantly less common in the humid months of summer), I've had luck with moistening the coat prior to a storm. I usually like to take a bit of coconut oil, rub it on my hands, and rub down the coat well. Added benefit - it smells really yummy and conditions the coat well! Other clients use a mink oil product for grooming and find that this works well also.
If your dog is sensitive to the change in barometric pressure...
These dogs often run to the basement and start reacting well in advance of when you can actually hear the storm, when the barometric pressure begins lowering. I find that application of pressure can be really helpful for these dogs - ThunderShirts and anxiety wraps often set these dogs at ease. My business partner's black Labrador Retriever, Nickle, is a thunderphobe and definitely is pressure sensitive. If a storm arrives in the middle of the night, Nick will wake Steve, Steve puts his anxiety wrap or ThunderShirt on, and Nick almost automatically relaxes. Appropriate fits are important with these tools, so if you are not sure about fitting your dog, consult with a local behavior professional who is experienced in their use.
Aside from an anxiety wrap or Thundershirt, the application of pressure through physical touch may be helpful for some dogs. Massage techniques, Tellington Touch therapy, and therapeutic touch may be helpful to your dog as well.