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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We considered ourselves pretty lucky because Baxter never showed any fear of thunderstorms or fireworks, even ones that are right on top of us. Last week, that changed. He's four years old and has just started reacting to thunder storms.

Last week, he became highly active as a storm approached and wound up huddled behind my legs, against the sofa. During that episode, I pretended nothing was out of the ordinary and tried to play with him. He eventually loosened up a bit.

Two nights ago, we had another storm and I woke up to him laying next to me, panting and staring at me. Thinking of those thundershirts, I hugged him firmly, pet him, and talked to him quietly for a while. He didn't really calm down, but I eventually fell asleep, which makes me think he didn't get more agitated.


So I'm wondering what to do. Should I...

1. Ignore the behavior and hope it goes away like I did on the first night.
2. Attempt to calm him through the storm like I did on the second night.
3. Look for some over the counter treatment (thundershirt, holistic treatment).
4. Ask the vet for medication (annual check up is in August, but I could move it up).
5. Something else?


Thanks for your opinions! He's such a smart, good boy and I am a little baffled by the sudden change in behavior.
 

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Get a vet appt....any sudden change of behavior, it's best for an appointment.

If a storm happens between now and then, definitely try to calm him. If what you're doing gets him more frantic...it's not good. But it is NOT harmful to try and decrease his stress.

Do consider anti-anxiety medications along with specific training to help teach him to relax and not be worried about storms. Sedatives are NOT appropriate for this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh! I should add that we are friends with the owner of Baxter's father, who has one of Baxter's brothers. The owner said that Baxter's brother suddenly became afraid of storms about four months ago. He said they do not medicate, but just comfort the dog through the storm.
 

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You can get some rescue remedy for pets (not humans) online. It doesnt have alcohol like the human variety does. Also there is something called a thunder shirt. Some people swear by it. My brother in law's lab is afraid of storms and they use it on Cassie and say it works. But others say it doesnt.

Try to act like the storms are no big deal, so they dont pick up on your nervousness. And dont baby them. Just talk to them in a normal voice as if it normal. I have three goldens that are storm phobic but not very severe.
 

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I don't know what would cause a sudden fear, but I know it can be very difficult when your dog is afraid of storms.

Some people do swear by the thunder shirt. It didn't work for our GSD, Gunner, but he was a pretty extreme case. He was absolutely terrified of storms. The minute he heard thunder, he'd glue himself to me. He had to be touching me, preferably in my lap, and would just shake until the storm completely passed. We tried everything for him and nothing helped. All I could do was hold him and try to comfort him.

When he first started showing signs of fear, I tried ignoring him and honestly, I think it made matters worse. He became increasingly more frantic and more desperate for attention with each storm. It seemed to help a little bit once I started sitting with him. He was still terrified, but not quite as manic.
 

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Thank you redogs for not saying to ignore the fear/anxiety of the dog!!! I am so sick of people saying that, it doesn't work and to me is cruel to the dog.
You can calm and reassure your pup without reinforcing the anxiety. My Gunner is terrified during a storm and he lies with me and I pet and massage him. We do give him 3mgs of melatonin , it helps alittle.

My old vet told me he ignores his dog who is terrified during storms, I said "Oh does that help?" he said 'Well No but I don't want to reinforce his fear" I say "BS!" His dog shakes under the bed!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I'm with you, Debles.

I just talked to a colleague this morning to worked with a behaviorist on this (one of her labs developed a fear). Apparently, the frequency of the storms here is having an effect on our dogs. We've been having thunder storms almost daily, so dogs are spending part of each day anxious about an approaching storm, a storm that's arrived, and storm that has just gone away. Poor pups!

The behaviorist confirmed that comforting the dog is correct and ignoring the storm entirely is apt to make them more agitated.
 

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I have two thunderphobic dogs. Jasper became thunderphobic after lightening struck a tree right above us which obviously caused a massive boom which terrified him. After that he became very noise phobic. I use a product called Happy Traveler which has really helped him as long as I can get it into him before the storms.

Jasmine has been nervous about storms for several years and I use the Thundershirt on her and it works really well for her.

I had an epiphany when we had some extremely bad weather, including a tornado that passed approximately 2 miles from our home. Jasper wasn't nervous until he heard the actual thunder from the storms. Jasmine was nervous easily an hour before the storms rolled in. We had set up the hall bath as our "safe place" with a mattress for us to take cover (the tornado was originally forecast to come right over the house). We didn't go in until almost the time it was supposed to pass over because it's a pretty small room and we had three adults and 4 dogs plus a mattress in there. When we headed in, Jasmine was already in there curled up against the inner wall.

So my theory (unschooled!) is that some dogs react to the change in barometric pressure and the static in the air, and they seem to do better with the thundershirt. Other dogs seem to only react to the noise and they seem to do better with natural relaxants like Rescue Remedy or Happy Traveler.

Here's a link to a great article that explains that comforting a dog during a thunderstorm will not reinforce the fear that they are feeling and may actually help them.

reinforcing fear in dogs » TheOtherEndoftheLeash
 

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5 yr old Golden bothered by approaching storm

The last year or so our male golden seems to be able to sense an approaching storm. This usually happens when storms appoach at night. He starts whining and wants to be on the bed with us. I have let him outside to go to the bathroom hoping that would make him comfortable. He is not afraid to go outside - he just has this whining and panting till he settles down as the storm arrives and passes.
Any suggestions?
 

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Daisy used to be so afraid of thunderstorms, she would hide in the bathtub :(

I had to work and on days where I thought there might be a storm, I made sure she had an area to go to that helped her feel better. Left the bathroom door open, pulled the chair away from the desk, or even moved the couch out from the wall a bit.

When I was home and a storm came, I used distraction a lot. High-value treats like a good meaty marrow bone definitely helped.

Once she got desensitized a bit, we would go outside together and sit on the porch when a storm was rolling in. I acted like I was really excited, was oooohing and ahhhhing and acting all happy.

Last week we had a really bad lightening storm. One bolt of lightening was so close and the thunder was a huge BANG...I about fell off the couch LOL. Daisy didn't so much as flinch.
 

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He is not afraid to go outside - he just has this whining and panting till he settles down as the storm arrives and passes.
Any suggestions?
Crazy suggestion but it did occur to me :p: Try getting into the bathtub with him. I've heard that dogs can feel the static electricity in the air and that porcelain can neutralize some of that. Daisy seemed to instinctively know that, even before I did.
 

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To follow up with Red Dog's advice to see your vet, at the vet appointment, ask him/her to run a thyroid panel (fasting). I was just reading Dr.Dodds new book on canine thyroid disease and she asserts that dogs are being diagnosed at younger ages (even as early as 14 months) and sometimes hypothyroidism brings on behavioral changes, including fear of storms. It may be a long shot, but it's worth checking out for many reasons.
 

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Sawyer is my first dog not afraid of thunderstorms. One of our dog obedience instructors said that dogs can become fearful over time. She keeps a frozen marrow bone in the fridge and when there is a thunderstorm, usually in the middle of the night around here, she wakes up and gives her dog the bone to keep its mind off the storm. Or does any high-value activity to desensitize it to the storm.
 

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To follow up with Red Dog's advice to see your vet, at the vet appointment, ask him/her to run a thyroid panel (fasting). I was just reading Dr.Dodds new book on canine thyroid disease and she asserts that dogs are being diagnosed at younger ages (even as early as 14 months) and sometimes hypothyroidism brings on behavioral changes, including fear of storms. It may be a long shot, but it's worth checking out for many reasons.
I was going to say exactly this. Sudden behavioral changes, particularly those that involve anxiety, particularly at the age of the dog mentioned, can be a sign of a thyroid problem.

Also, I'm not in the "ignore" camp, but I do think there are lots of things that owners think are comforting that might increase stress if you're a dog.

#1 on the list is hugging. Most dogs find hugs at least a little anxiety-inducing. Even if you've trained your dog to like it, giving a hug during an anxious moment can still increase anxiety.

#2 is high voices. They might sound comforting to you, but certain kinds of high-pitched talking can make a dog think there's a reason to be afraid.

#3 is getting anxious yourself. If you hear thunder and tense up because you think "oh, the poor dog," you may be sending signals to your dog that the thunder is a good reason to be tense and nervous.

If you do talk, you should use a "no big deal" voice, or medium-range, calm, quiet tones.

I think petting is great and playing is even better. Giving treats for each rumble of thunder is fun too. *rumble* (treat). The dog can learn that the rumbles are actually kind of fun because they make treats appear, and food is very calming for many dogs.
 

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Our Boxer Angel was terrified of storms. She sensed them coming a couple of hours before.The thundershirt worked wonders for her. Also have used benadryl if knew night time storms were coming or we wouldn't get sleep. Now my 11 year old Boxer has suddenly(this morning at 4am) become afraid of storms...he's terminal with a hemangiosarcoma on left side as well as Mets with a heart based tumor and his lungs have tumors. Wondering if it might be metastasis to the brain? Or just because he's ill. Hmmm Any way I don't believe holding them or petting them reinforces the behavior. We soothe our children when they're afraid...

We considered ourselves pretty lucky because Baxter never showed any fear of thunderstorms or fireworks, even ones that are right on top of us. Last week, that changed. He's four years old and has just started reacting to thunder storms.

Last week, he became highly active as a storm approached and wound up huddled behind my legs, against the sofa. During that episode, I pretended nothing was out of the ordinary and tried to play with him. He eventually loosened up a bit.

Two nights ago, we had another storm and I woke up to him laying next to me, panting and staring at me. Thinking of those thundershirts, I hugged him firmly, pet him, and talked to him quietly for a while. He didn't really calm down, but I eventually fell asleep, which makes me think he didn't get more agitated.


So I'm wondering what to do. Should I...

1. Ignore the behavior and hope it goes away like I did on the first night.
2. Attempt to calm him through the storm like I did on the second night.
3. Look for some over the counter treatment (thundershirt, holistic treatment).
4. Ask the vet for medication (annual check up is in August, but I could move it up).
5. Something else?


Thanks for your opinions! He's such a smart, good boy and I am a little baffled by the sudden change in behavior.
 
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