It’s here. The time of year I love best, but nowadays, not so much as I used to. I love thunderstorms and fireworks, but living with my two panicky dogs has really taken the fun out of it for me. Routinely, I get requests for help with people who own dogs who fear thunderstorms and fireworks. There is no magic pill to give our friends, but there are some steps you can take to help. None of these is a panacea, but you may hit on one or two that help.
Following is a partial list of things you can do and products you can use.
--Peppermint Extract. Not Peppermint Oil….you can find Peppermint Extract in the baking section of your supermarket. Dab some on a cotton ball and dab that on the pads of your dog’s feet before a storm is coming. It is supposed to be a stimulant, but in this case, it can calm a dog. I didn’t believe it would work, but years ago I tried it on one of my dogs…she sniffed high in the air, circled and laid down against the wall. She dozed while the storm came and went. I couldn’t believe it.
--Rescue Remedy (Bach’s Flower Essences).http://www.bachflower.com/rescue-remedy-information/. This is a homeopathic remedy which combines 5 essences to address acute trauma (storms, fireworks, vet visits, accidents, etc). You can put 3 drops on the dog’s tongue, in his water, on his fur (on top of his head, on his paws, wherever you’d like). Make sure you do this as soon as you know the scary event is starting.
--Melatonin. You can purchase this in your supermarket’s vitamin section. It’s usually available in 1 or 3 mg tablets. Melatonin is a hormone, and is associated with circadian rythyms, which help us with our sleep/wake cycles. A synthetic version of this hormone is generally used. It should be given right before a storm or fireworks are starting, and can be used up to three times a day. For dogs under 35lb, give 1.5 mg; for dogs 35-100lb, give 3mg. Since Melatonin is technically a drug, you may wish to check with your veterinarian first.
--Thundershirts. www.thundershirt.com . From their website :
Thundershirt’s gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited. It is this pressure that has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited. From real world experience, we know with certainty that Thundershirt DOES WORK. That is why we are able to offer a money-back guarantee. Based on surveys completed by over 1,000 Thundershirt users, over 85% of dogs show significant improvement in anxiety symptoms when using Thundershirt.
--Body wraps. You don’t have to purchase a Thundershirt. You can try to use an Ace bandage, wrapped in a figure 8 around your dog’s body and fastened with a non-sharp adhesive, such as tape. The snugness is often very helpful for dogs.
--Anxiety Wrap. http://anxietywrap.com/default.aspx This is an older product (one of the first out there) and has been generally acknowledged to be helpful for many fear issues.
--TTouch. http://www.tteam-ttouch.com/ There are a number of ways you can use touch to help your dog.
http://www.barbarajanelle.com/ttact/TA21-TELLINGTON_TTOUCH_FOR_THERAPY_DOGS.htm includes some helpful information. There is a ton of information online about TTouch, and familiarizing yourself with it before actually needing it is important.
--Storm Defender Cape http://www.stormdefender.com/how_it_works.htm From the website: The cape has a special metallic lining that discharges a dog's fur and shields him from the static charge buildup reducing his sensitivity to the charge. The dog gets relief, and after a few storms begins to learn that the secondary triggers like rain, wind, thunder, barometric pressure and smells are no longer to be feared. With the cape on, the dog feels as though he has found a safe place.
Note: When it comes to thunderstorms, some dogs are very fearful of the sounds and vibrations, while others are more sensitive to the barometric pressure and/or electric charge. It is best to get an idea of which category your dog falls into before purchasing a wrap, cape, or shirt. If your dog is afraid of storms but not fireworks, and hides in the tub or behind the toilet during storms, it’s probably a pressure/electrical fear. If your dog is terrified of both, it’s probably a noise/vibration issue.
There are many other products out there, but these are the ones I’ve experimented with and found some success with, either with my own dogs or through students’ dogs.
It is also worth mentioning that the once-believed verbiage about not coddling your dog when he’s trembling with fear is no longer believed to be necessary. If your dog is terrified, feel free to stroke or pet him and talk quietly to him!
Please feel free to share other successes with me so that I can add them to this list!
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