Dog increasingly terrified of thunderstorms - how can we help her?

(13 Posts)
anythingforaquietnight Fri 18-Jul-14 12:26:02

We have 2 lurchers. A few years ago we were caught in a sudden thunderstorm on a walk. There was a cloud to earth strike nearby that temporarily blinded me. It was truly terrifying.

One lurcher appears to have suffered no lasting effects, and is laid back and calm whenever we have a storm. Life never seems to phase him.

My poor girl, however, is a complete mess whenever there is even the hint of electrical storm. We have tried various tactics to try to help her.

We have found that she calms down a little if we make a bed up for both dogs in the downstairs cloakroom, with a blanket over the top and the radio on. This room has no external walls, so is as far from the outside as we can get her.

She completely panics if she has any human contact. She tries to literally climb inside the person who is trying to soothe her! She has never had a harse word spoken to her. We maintain a calm, gentle demeanour around her, although its heartbreaking to see her so upset and I'm sure she must pick up on that.

She is a sensitive soul at the best of times. She got through last night reasonably well, and is bright and bouncy this morning, but there are more storms coming.

What else can I do to help her? I'm going to try swaddling her in her coat next time. Is there any medication that the vet can give that might help? Son has suggested a feliway plug in?

Does anyone have any idea how else we can help her?

ProbablyMe Fri 18-Jul-14 12:39:22

Is she treat motivated at all? My (sadly now departed) labrDor was terrified of thunder storms and used to shake/try and run away in panic but I started giving her a small treat with every bang of thunder and pretty soon she changed her association. Worked with fireworks too.

ProbablyMe Fri 18-Jul-14 12:39:38

*labrador

anythingforaquietnight Fri 18-Jul-14 13:07:55

She is not overly motivated by treats unfortunately. If she is feeling stressed, or doing the classic lurcher 'I can't hear you' routine she will completely ignore food. We did some intensive training with a professional dog trainer to improve her recall a few years ago, and she refused all treats after a while. The trainer was perplexed. She does respond well to praise and loves a cuddle though.

Our other lurcher lives to eat. They are chalk and cheese.

Thank you for your idea. I will try it again though. It is something we had discounted on past experience, but it is definitely worth trying that tack again. Perhaps introducing treats at home when she is calm.

She picks up on storms a long time before they start. She was getting quite uptight a couple of hours before it hit last night. We settle them in the room before she gets too upset. I leave the door ajar and I can see them through the utility room window - so check she is not getting too distressed. If she does, we go in and try to settle her down.

Our boy slept through the whole thing. She sat panting. If she sees one of us she jumps up and starts getting distressed.

We have tried carrying on life as normal, and ignoring the behaviour, which didn't work. We discovered that wrapping her in a blanket sometimes helped, but not recently.
We have tried letting her sleep with us - that DEFINITELY doesn't work.

kilmuir Fri 18-Jul-14 13:13:11

Have seen thunderjackets for dogs

moosemama Fri 18-Jul-14 14:00:07

I also have two Lurchers, fortunately both mine slept through the storm last night shock by my old Border Collie x Belgian Shepherd was totally panicked by thunder and lightning and fireworks.

Things to try in the first instance:

Rescue Remedy (available at Boots) - start giving when bad weather is forecast or at earliest sign of a storm approaching
Dorwest Herbs Valerian Compound - similar usage to Rescue Remedy
A Thundershirt (this might work if wrapping helps and has a 100% money back guarantee if it doesn't - so definitely worth a try - they sell them at Pets at Home and online)
My girl used to prefer being in a really confined space - in her case squeezed behind the sofa - but a covered crate might help your girl if you don't already have one.

Long-term, you could try investing in a sound effects CD and very gradually desensitising her to the sound of thunder and lightning. Basically you start playing it almost inaudibly and gradually increase the volume over a number of weeks/months only when she is totally comfortable with each level. It might help, but if she's picking up on the atmospheric signs of a storm, it won't be a cure.

Lovethesea Fri 18-Jul-14 16:30:48

I've heard the blanket over idea helps as their fur registers the static electricity and they sometimes hate the feel of that more than the noise etc. and it starts early on.

anythingforaquietnight Fri 18-Jul-14 16:36:48

Thank you so much for all of those suggestions.

I am going to order some valerian, and look at thunder jackets online as our local Pets at Home have none.

I'm also going to resurrect the crate which has been in the loft for years. So does crate training with treats, starting in the living room with the ideas that the crate eventually becomes a feature in the downstairs cloakroom as a secure bolt hole in times of fear sound like the right approach?

She is unfazed by fireworks, or gunshots (It seems "everyone and their mums is packing around here" down in the wild wild west) so I'm not sure if the CD would work. It's worth a try though. If she still picks up on the electromagnetic atmospherics, but is less worried about the noise, it might help!

I'm going to try everything. Maybe one thing alone might help, maybe a combination of factors, maybe nothing will change

MothershipG Fri 18-Jul-14 16:43:35

One of my Affens hates fireworks and thunder, we have tried everything but nothing seems to help. sad

It didn't work for us but lots of people have good results from DAP collars or defusers. The same for zyklene and Pet remedy.

Different things may work for different dogs I suppose.

We get left with the pacing, panting & shivering. Last night he decided he needed to be between the top of my head and the headboard. It's very hard to sleep on a hot and noisy night with a vibrating dog on your head, but I didn't have the heart to move him.

Haffdonga Fri 18-Jul-14 16:56:09

Your poor girl sad. We tried one of the CDs to help ddog with her fear of fireworks and I have to say great idea but totally useless. We did the whole desensitizing thing (playing it very quietly, increasing the volume etc - not a flicker of fear from ddog.) Come July 4th and a few fireworks parties (a lot of American's round here) she was once again a nervous wreck.

I think the vibrations/ resonance of a real explosion in the air outside (firework or thunder) bears no relation to a recording, for dogs with such highly sensitive hearing. Before wasting your money trying out a CD, try playing recordings of thunder from the internet to your dog. If she reacts then perhaps a recoding desensitising plan might help.

soddinghormones Fri 18-Jul-14 20:27:32

One of our childhood labs developed an increasing fear of thunder as she got older - it was quite debilitating as she'd start to panic if there were dark clouds as that might mean a storm was coming... In the end we got Valium (or whatever the doggy equivalent is) from the vet and gave her that when she started to freak out.

It was one of the benefits of her going deaf in her last couple of years as once she could no longer hear the thunder the fear disappeared

moosemama Fri 18-Jul-14 22:30:32

The crate plan sounds like a good idea.

The things Mothership mentions are worth looking into as well. DAP doesn't work for our pup, probably because he was separated from his Mum at birth, but Pet Remedy (an aromatherapy diffuser or spray) has an excellent calming effect on him. Zylkene also works for him, but again, it's trial and error as what will work for one dog, may not for another.

There's also another alternative to the Thundershirt called the Anxiety Wrap which may work if the Thundershirt doesn't.

I'm told for the CD desensitisation to work you have to build up to putting a stereo on full blast outside your window to recreate the fireworks coming from outside the house. Apparently it's not necessary for all dogs, but cannier dogs are often ok with the sound indoors, as it's clearly coming from the speakers, but still react to sounds from outdoors. It's worth a try and you can even download some sound effects for free online or play some off YouTube in the first instance to see if she reacts.

Sodding - same with Oldgirl, she was totally deaf in the last couple of years of her life and it was such a relief for her. We live fairly near a popular wedding venue, that has fireworks every Saturday night as a result and we knew how deaf she'd become by how little she reacted, then eventually didn't react at all.

windchimes8 Sat 19-Jul-14 13:35:52

Just be careful if you give your dog valium or vet. equivalent for storms. It made my staffie x collie much WORSE, anxious, hyper, wouldn't settle down. Now she has tablets from the pet shop called Sanal Relax, they do the trick but only up to a point. She still sits on the hall mat, the part of the bungalow furthest away from any windows, therefore noise and pants and drools with her ears back. We check her from time to time and she seems reasonably ok but knows a storm is coming a couple of hours before. She is 13 years and her fear has got worse with age.

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