Storm treats! Help for dogs scared by storms, thunder and lightning
Flickr photo courtesy of Tudor Costache
The best tip that I can give to quell the fearful behavior? Make the event into a positive thing. This can be achieved by using a classic counter conditioning, and it's easy - no special tools needed.
When a storm is about to start, emit a positive attitude. Your pet picks up on nonverbal communication and your behavior, not just what you say. Grab your dog's favorite interactive toy, like a tennis ball and a handful of really yummy treats - and begin to play fetch (or whatever keeps your pet engaged) in a safe area.This keeps them distracted, and engaged in the activity - not on the building storm.
As the storm gains intensity, the treats become a valuable tool. Most dogs are afraid of the thunder and lightning, not so much the rain itself. Remember, dogs are more sensitive to visual cues in this case, lightning - as well as audible/sensory cues like thunder, than we are. Each time during the game that it either thunders or a strike of lightning, in an enthusiastic tone say something like: "Woohoo!" or "Alright!" as you give them a "storm treat." This is a prime example of classic counter conditioning. Continue through the storm, and through the interaction, your dog will start to associate the storm activity with a positive outcome, rather than a fearful response.
Read more from Patricia McConnell's site, The Other End of The Leash on reinforcing fear in dogs.
Lorrie Shaw is a pet blogger, a regular contributor to AnnArbor.com and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has extensive experience with animals including dogs, amphibians, exotic birds and cats, and is always interested in fostering healthy dog behavior. Contact her via e-mail