Robin and I were installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system in Hollywood last Wednesday for a client and his escaping Labradoodle named Chloe. The back yard backed up to a lake that Chloe loved to swim across and visit the rest of the neighborhood. Well, we contained that issue very quickly and Chloe rapidly learned that “There is no place like home”. After our initial training, she was very happy and content to only play in her back yard and watch the rest of the world from there. As we were packing up, out client approached us and asked if we had any ideas on how to calm Chloe from the thunderstorms. He told us that she would just go crazy as the summer thunderstorms come into the area.
I told my client that over half of the dogs we train have some level of distress when it comes to the loud sounds of thunder or blinding flashes of lightning. Their hearing is far more acute than ours and when we hear a loud thunder clap, it is the equivalent of standing right in back of a commercial airliner when it guns it’s jets at the start of the runway. They have no idea that it is “simply a rain storm” and are very nervous on how it is going to impact their normally calm and consistent environment. If they are rescue dogs, they may have been left in the streets in thunderstorms and the recurrence of this event can heighten their predisposed fear.
Many dog owners make the mistake of over-babying their dogs when they see they are afraid of thunder and lightning. They hold them in their arms and talk “baby talk” to try and sooth them. I explained to my client that, from their dog’s perspective, this only heightens their fear. As their dog is looking for a point of safety and security, the high pitched “baby talk” is only showing submission and weakness from the owner. When the owner picks up the dog, they are increasing the dog’s perceived dominance and implying that they should be the boss and even protect the owner. These are not the things the dog “wants to hear” at that moment.
I went on to tell my client that he shouldn’t worry. There are some simple steps he can take to help calm Chloe’s fear of thunderstorms. I first suggested a “quick and dirty” approach that we have found to work for many of our clients. It involves the use of a Thunder Shirt. This is a sweater-like apparel that the dog owner places on the dog as a thunderstorm approaches. The thunder shirt fits tightly around the dog’s torso and engages specific touch points on the dog’s body. The engagement of these touch points produces a calming effect in much the same way we experience a calming massage. Although this is very effective for many dogs, it does not solve the problem for others.
I then went on to provide a check list of things for him to do:
- Always bring Chloe inside when a thunderstorm is approaching. Do not think that a dog house or back porch will diminish the audible and visual effects of the storm. Since the effects will appear to be all around her, giving her no place to run and hide, the result could be an ever increasing level of anxiety, fright, and even aggression.
- Always have a family member with Chloe during a thunderstorm. That family member should call her to their side and allow her to sit calmly with them. It is fine to pet and talk to Chloe, just don’t go overboard.
- Move to an interior room where the effects of the storm will be diminished. If there is no interior room, make sure the windows and curtains are closed.
- Turn on the television or music to help add a distractive noise to help minimize the effect of “quiet to boom” of the thunder.
- Keep Chloe on a leash and always have that leash in hand. Walk her around and perform obedience exercises with her to redirect her away from the sounds and to the calm demeanor of the family member.
I also suggested that he could perform some proactive exercises with Chloe to help her “get used” to the thunder. I told him to get a soundtrack of thunderstorms that he could play at different levels during the day. Start with the volume low so that she doesn’t negatively react to the noise and perform the actions I already detailed. As she gets used to the current “level of the recorded storm”, slowly turn the volume up.
This proactive exercise helps socialize her with the characteristics of the storm while my client can have complete control of the elements. Being in control allows him to remain calm and consistent. As he focused Chloe back to him, she will understand that he is the “safe harbor in the storm”.
Sometimes we need to understand that we can’t completely make our dog feel safe in every situation. What we can to is to provide as much positive solace and redirection as necessary to allow them to be calm and deadrenalized. We hope that we can answer all your queries about home dog training or out of sight dog fences. Just click Dog Fence Training Help Hollywood South Florida or pick up the phone and call (954) 472-4724. There is more Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® and dog training data available through Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Hollywood South Florida. Robin and I have been your neighborhood pet professionals for over 3,500 dogs and dog owners in Hollywood and all over South Florida. If your dog has behavior issues, we are also your best dog training answer. Find out about our Obedience and Behavior Dog Training Programs by clicking Home Dog Training Hollywood South Florida.