“Helping Owners Live Happily with their Pooches”
If your dog experiences, pacing, trembling, excessive salivation, panting, inappropriate elimination, vocalization, destructiveness, physically self-destructive behavior, and staying near the caregiver, in response to storm’s you probably have a dog with Storm-Phobia. There is help available for dogs that experience intense fear in response to thunder, fireworks and other loud noises. Keep in mind that you may never get rid of all the behaviors but with work you should be able to increase your dog’s tolerance to intense storms and decrease the number and intensity of behaviors related to the storm-phobia. There are two drugs available that your veterinary may give you to reduce fear and anxiety. Clomipramine which is an antidepressant and Alprazolam, a rapid-acting medication that strongly combats anxiety and fear, as a supplement to the Clomipramine. Along with the drugs you will need to conduct behavioral-modification sessions at home using both desensitization training and counter-conditioning. This will take time and commitment from you. Depending on the dog it can take weeks or even months. The desensitization training involves the playing of audio recordings of storms at a volume that does not induce a fear response. Increasing the volume of the storm sounds by tiny increments. The volume should be increased so gradually that your dog hardly notices the change. Many stores have soundtracks of fireworks thunder storms, and rain that you can purchase. If at anytime your dog shows any signs of fear decrease the volume again and proceed a little more slowly. The counter-conditioning techniques include giving your dog a suitable toy or food treat. Counter-conditioning is about changing associations. It’s called counter-conditioning rather than conditioning because the dog already has an unpleasant emotional response to the thing we’re trying to condition. Examples of associations; your dog learns that a leash coming out of the cupboard means a walk is next. Your cat learns that the sound of the can opener means food is next. So if every time there is a storm you give your dog a hi-valued treat or toy, with repetition, he will start to have a nice feeling about the storm. Note: remember the treat and or toy must be of hi-value to the dog, not what we think he should think is hi-value.
Other ways to help your canine include:
• Never verbally or physically reprimand or punish the dog for being afraid. He will only
• Never verbally or physically try to reassure or comfort the dog when he is acting fearful. If
you say things like “it’s OK, nothing will hurt you” your dog will think you want him to act fearful because he cannot understand your words, he will understand the tone of your voice and to him you will be approving of his fear and he will think that is how you want him to act.
• If he likes his crate already sometimes it may help to place him in his crate with a Kong or
some other yummy treat to help him keep his mind off of the weather.
• Brush up on some obedience training. You can then give your dog lots of attention, for
obeying a command instead of for acting fearful. Make sure he knows the commands well beforehand. He will probably have trouble concentrating at first, but he will get better.
Copyright 2000 Agility 4 Fun / Janet Griggs
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