Louise Harding

Blog«Scary Storms
Scary Storms
Louise Harding
25 August 2020
6 December 2023
2.71 minutes

For many dogs, thunderstorms mean fear and trembling, for the unluckiest dogs they mean outright panic.
The standard therapy for dealing with fears in dogs is counter-conditioning and desensitisation. You start desensitisation by exposing your dog to the frightening stimulus in its mildest possible form. You counter-condition by pairing the scary thing with a super-special treat. When your dog understands that he’s survived the stressful event, he will begin to calm and be less afraid. 

With thunderstorms, two factors are important;

  1. First, counter-conditioning and desensitisation largely depend on avoiding random exposures to the scary thing. This can be difficult when dealing with the environment.
  2. Second, a thunderstorm isn’t just one thing. It includes a darkening sky; the smell of ozone; changes in barometric pressure; wind and rain; lightning and thunder.

Play Therapy – Useful if your dog is only mildly anxious, maybe a little restless, before and during storms. The minute you’re aware that a storm is coming, bring out the ball or tug toy. If you throw a play party whenever there’s a storm, your dog may learn that storms predict good times.

Behaviour modification and medication – Unfortunately, you won’t always be home when a storm comes, and every episode of anxiety makes it likelier the anxiety will worsen. If you don’t see clear improvement after a couple of storms, or your dog is highly anxious, consult your vet and use the steps above in conjunction with anti-anxiety medication. 

The good news is almost all thunder phobic dogs will see significant improvement either with gradual exposure and use of counter-conditioning and desensitisation alone or coupled with prescribed anti-anxiety medications.

For a complete step-by-step guide, see my book Nose to Tail: A Holistic Guide to Training your Dream Dog available for purchase from www.louiseharding.com.au

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NOSE to TAILA Holistic Guide to Training Your Dream DogLouise Harding Author, Speaker and Master Dog Trainer


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