Thunder phobic dogs can be quite a handful during storms. In some cases, they can do a lot of damage to your personal belongings and/or your home – especially if you are not home to intercede.
It comes as no surprise to me that people are left with “no where to turn” and then stay frustrated because they feel they have no apparent solution. Drugs may only provide a short term solution. There are some holistic remedies that may or may not be helpful such as “Rescue Remedy” an herbal based formula, which is found at natural food stores. There is another product called Comfort Zone found on the Internet or off the shelf at Pet Smart of PetCO (less expensive on the Internet). This is a synthetic doggie pheromone that, when sprayed on your dog’s bed, can produce a more relaxed state of mind in some dogs.
Long term permanent solutions require looking at your relationship with your dog to determine if current family or “pack structure” provides strong and consistent leadership to help with your dog’s behavior. A pattern of strong and consistent leadership coupled with what behaviorist Bill Campbell calls the “jolly routine”, has worked miracles in many dogs. Some behaviorists have noted a definite evidence of mood transferal from owners to dogs as the dog observes certain subtle changes in the owner’s actions and speech patterns (evidenced when the owner deploys the jolly routine). What this means is when you are nervous or upset the dog becomes the same. If you do the jolly routine and you’re happy and playful, the dog will respond accordingly to those emotions coming from you. The worst thing you can do is say to your dog” it’s okay, momma’s here or, that’s my baby it’s gonna be OK—-and all the while you are cooing and petting your dog. That’s a sure fire recipe for making the thunder phobia worse. Again, strong leadership, not placating feelings.
So, exactly what IS the “jolly routine”? It is an activity such as a game of fetch with a favorite ball or an interactive game with a favorite squeaky toy (may take some imagination on your part) which will cause your dog to associate this positive energy with the storm. Do NOT be discouraged if your results are not immediate. Any behavior modification program you start requires many repetitions over a period of time.
So, JOLLY UP! Jim Burwell