Help your apartment pooch cope with thunderstorms and fireworks
If he suffers from anxiety, sickness, or strange behavior during storms there are ways that you can help!
Storms aren’t for everyone. There are some people who will chase them in cars with cameras in tow. Others seek refuge in our homes and drown out the pelting rain with a long movie. Dogs are much the same way. Some animals love to be outdoors regardless of the weather and others are scare witless when the first streak of lightening tears through the sky.
Sometimes, a dog’s dislike for storms is bearable for both parties. He might chill out under the bed until the thunder stops. Other pets, though, have more adverse reactions. They shiver constantly or take out their anxiety by gnawing on furniture or destroying household items.
Researchers have not been able to definitively hone in on one particular reason why dogs have such adverse reactions to storms. It could be the change in air pressure, the unidentifiable and ubiquitous sounds, or even the sudden bursts of light that scare them. Not knowing the sole source of your pet’s fear makes it difficult to comfort him.
To help your dog, talk to your veterinarian about systematic desensitization. This method allows your dog to gently adjust to storms by introducing a few small factors at a time. You may be asked to play a recording of rain, or use flashing lights occasionally. Once the occurrence is over, you’ll be asked to richly reward your pet with treats, at first simply for “surviving” through the incident and then rewarding him for remaining calm.
There are also prescriptions that help to calm your dog in extreme cases.
In many cases, professionals and pet owners alike have found that creating a safe haven for the dog may work well. If he has a crate or dog house, make it cozy and very private. Use a blanket to cover the door so he can enter and exit easily yet block out much light and some sound. If he is a gnawer, try giving him a fresh bone as a distraction. Place several comfy pillows inside. During his first trips to the safe haven, be sure to check on your pooch frequently and make sure he is handling the new arrangement well.