Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dogs and thunder, how do you comfort them?

I just twittered that we are in for a thunderstorm shortly and it made me think about some of my friends I know whose dogs completely freak out during thunderstorms. Thankfully, my dogs are completely unphased by thunder. I personally LOVE thunderstorms, so I naturally have never made a fuss over them. If anything, it turns into a fun thing for my dogs because we run from window to window watching the rain, we play games, and sometimes sit on the deck watching it. And sometimes we even go out and play in the rain :) We live on a hill and when it really downpours it looks like Niagara Falls in front of our house!

One of my friends has 2 dogs who fear thunder or any similar loud noise, like fireworks. She fusses over them like crazy, keeps telling them "it's ok!!!" and petting them... which personally I think makes it worse. She insists it comforts them. I disagree. Dogs are very smart and they pick up on your behavior. They know the difference in your voice when you are trying to comfort them or when you are just playing with them. We might not notice the difference, but dogs can.

One of my ex-coworkers has a dog she has to put on medication every time it storms. And if she's at work she locks him in her bathroom all drugged up. I guess the dog (and he's a bigger dog) runs around the house panting, drooling, shaking, barking, and tears the house up. But locking him in a bathroom all day all drugged up? That doesn't seem like a very good solution to me.

I personally think if you associate their fears into something fun and positive, their fears will eventually go away. Play a game with them when it storms. Give them a special treat when it storms. And repeat this every time. They will eventually associate thunder to something positive and will stop acting out in fear.

I ask all of you - if you have dogs who are afraid of storms, how do you cope? What is your solution?

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