Thunderstorm anxiety affects many dogs and the thunderstorm season is upon us. There are many ways you can help your pet relieve their anxiety.  Training and counter-conditioning before the event can help desensitize your pet to a point where your pet no longer reacts negatively to the various stimuli but this can take some time and patience and is a good long-term solution.  Basically you’ll help your pet that storms are nothing he needs to be concerned about.  Now this is always easier when your dog is young and you can build this into this socialization but with patience you can give your older dog the tools they need to help cope with these type of situations.

Throw A Party!

Counter-conditioning your pet uses treats or other toys to your advantage. Associating a positive experience with something that may potentially frighten your dog can often help reduce your pet’s anxiety levels. Have a storm puppy party and toss treats on the floor when it thunders.  It can really help them begin to associate thunder with good things like treats.  Try to do this before your dog is really anxious. There are unique sound effect CD’s available that can help you train your dog without an actual thunderstorm going on.

Foster on doorHere’s an example of how we did this with our dog Foster.  He gets very agitated when the smoke alarm goes off (which isn’t often but we used to have a rather sensitive one near our kitchen!) He runs through the house and is quite anxious.  Here’s how we worked with him. It happened that during an episode of Modern Family a key element in the show was a smoke detector going off.  Foster heard the first beep on the TV and began to get anxious.  We didn’t want him to be stressed during the entire show and we recognized this as a training opportunity so we came up with this solution. He’s clicker trained so we got out some treats and with each beep of the smoke alarm on the show he got a treat.  By the end of the show he was anxiously awaiting the treats and not worrying about the alarms.  Even now he begins to looks to us for treats when he hears the smoke alarm go off instead of anxiously running through the house.

Throwing a big puppy (or adult dog!) circus before your dog gets too over-stimulated and shuts down can work well too.  When you know a storm is coming then start engaging your pet in some of their favorite games – it might be hunting down treats you’ve hidden the in the house, a rousing game of fetch or tug, playing with a puzzle toy and working on little training games with them.  This will help them associate fun activities when storms come and they will worry less about the pending storm.  It’s important for you to help your pet define these moments together rather then them coming up with a more scary scenario themselves.  The goal is to make your dog simply ignore what’s going on outside and what is relevant to her is what’s going on inside the house – hopefully lots of fun and games!

Take a Holistic Approach!

In addition to behavior modification, you can take a natural and holistic approach to reducing your pet’s anxiety through the use of various natural herbs, flower essences and energy healing and anti-anxiety body wraps like the Thundershirt.  These are safe ways to help your pet deal with their anxiety.  Some work right away and some require a bit more time to work in their system.  No product or technique will work for every pet but these products are great natural options for your pet.  One of our team members at Four Muddy Paws can help you find some great options.Book-Energy-Healing-For-Dogs-203x300

Color and music therapy can also be effective in helping your pet in addition to regular energy healing sessions.  We also carry a line of canine music therapy CD’s that have been helpful both with storms as well as separation anxiety.

An excellent book to read on this subject is Energy Healing for Dogs by Nicole Wilde.  She offers numerous holistic solutions and techniques to help your pet deal with their anxiety issues.