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Dog Afraid of Thunder

At any given moment, about 2,000 thunderstorms are raging around the world, with lightning hitting the ground 100 times a second. What this means is that there are more than 2,000 reasons for dogs to dive under the bed, howl at the sky, and claw, chew, or bark their way through the house, looking for comfort from the storm.

Dogs' senses are much sharper than ours. They hear, smell, and sense things with a clarity that we can hardly imagine. Because they hear higher and lower frequencies than we do, the sound of thunder is more intense. Their hearing is sensitive, so the volume is much higher. Then there are the changes in the atmospheric pressure that accompany storms, and the gusting winds that bring in sudden changes in airborne scents. With all that, plus lightning, thunder, and rain, a storm is nothing less than a full assault on the senses. Thunder is the one thing that most dogs pin their fears on, but it's not the only one. It's just the most obvious and the most disruptive.

In addition, dogs aren't able to understand what's causing all the commotion. You can't tell them that storms are a normal meteorological phenomenon. All they know is that the world has suddenly changed, and it's not a change for the better.

Good Intentions, Bad Results

No one knows why some dogs are terrified of thunder while others are oblivious. The fears tend to be worse in big dogs, which has led some experts to speculate that they might be able to hear low-frequency rumblings that smaller dogs miss. In addition, breeds who work closely with people, such as Labrador retrievers, suffer most, probably because these dogs feel that it's their job to protect their people, and storms leave them feeling helpless because they can't bark or bite away the danger.

The way that people react to their dogs' nervousness has a lot to do with how well the dogs cope with storms. Dogs who are frightened look to their people for reassurance. When the people seem upset-not because of the storm, but because their dogs are obviously terrified - the dogs think something like, "Wow, they're scared too! I guess this really is a problem."

The best way to handle storms is to pay a little attention to your dog as possible until it's over. " Let him stay near you, but don't baby him. When dogs hear worried tones in our voices-especially the tone that says, "It's okay, mommy's here'-they become convinced that there is really something to be afraid of." A similar thing occurs when people try to coax dogs out of their hiding places. All the dogs want is a place to feel safe. They can't understand why people are sticking their heads under the bed and trying to bribe or pull them out. They've never seen people acting that way before, and it freaks them out.

Now That You Understand.....

Hold them like Mom did. Mother dogs control and reassure their pups by holding them behind their ears or on the bridges of their noses. You can give dogs the same feelings of reassurance by putting dogs on leashes during storms. Leashes are symbols of parental authority, and dogs will relax when they know that someone else is in charge of things.

Dogs naturally gravitate to small, enclosed places, which is why they often lie down in the midst of shoes, clothes, or other things on the floor- it's their way of creating a little den. The urge to hide is especially strong when they're frightened. It's recommended that you allow your dog to go where he/she usually spends their time in a little enclosed space. The will appreciate the comfort and burrow in and ride out the storm.

Try a soothing touch. A technique called Tellington Touch, which isn't quite acupressure and is not quite message, has been shown to help dogs relax. One stroke that seems to ease storm anxiety is the ear touch. Hold the ear between your thumb and forefinger and give gentle strokes, moving from the base to the tip.



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