🐶⛈Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs⛈🐶

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Knowing How to Overcome Thunderstorms in Your Dog

Thunderstorm anxiety in dogs can be stressful for the entire family. Not knowing if what you’re doing is helping or hurting can be even worse.

I recently got asked how we can help dogs overcome thunderstorm anxiety if there is no storms during the training time.  It was one of those moments, where your answer comes out so smoothly and you sound “like a boss.”  😎  I had one of those moments and wanted to share that answer with you.  

Public Speaking

The best analogy I have, is stage fright.  A lot of you know what I’m talking about.  According to Mind Publications (mindpub.com), 90% of people have stage fright!  That’s a lot more that I would have thought.  Although, I have done several public speeches on everything dog (canine body language, behavior, euthanasia, kid and canine safety, etc), I have terrible stage fright.  I hated talking in front of my classmates in elementary school through college.  So when I was asked to do my first speech, my instinct was to scream “no!” and to go run and hide!  Lol.  But I felt that God was calling me to do something more and this speech would be my first step.  I overcame that anxiety and although public speaking is not one of my favoritest things (yeah, I just said that 🤓), I can do it and do it successfully.  

Baby Steps 

How do you overcome stage fright?  It’s simple, although as I always tell the dog families we work with, simple doesn’t always mean easy.  The first step is to start small.  Present in front of a friend or family member.  I mean you talk to these people all the time, right?  So not scary…until you’re “presenting” to him or her.  You start sweating, forgetting lines and key points, etc.  But after a few presentations you’re more confident and think, “piece of cake.”  Next it’s time to move up to several friends or family members.  Once that’s mastered, then schedule a small presentation in front of 5-10 strangers, etc. This same process can be applied to dogs in overcoming their thunderstorm anxiety.  

What NOT to do During Thunderstorms 

It’s important to understand, while your dog can learn to understand many different words.  They do not understand when you are saying (in your absolute peppiest voice {with your eyebrows furrowed and your neck extended}) “It’s ok buddy.  You’re fine.  It’s not gonna hurt you.” All the while you’re petting them and holding them in your lap.  What that translates to in dog language is: “when you cower and hide under the table after bouncing off every wall in the house and destroying my favorite throw pillow… I will love on you for hours and you are doing everything right.”  This will only reinforce the anxiety and encourage it to continue and often times worsen.  Your response to the storm should be casual and as if there is nothing to worry about, NOT “oh my gosh, the world is going to end!😱” Because your dog feels your anxiety as well.

Overcoming Storms, Without Storms

Although we can’t conjure up a storm to work with thunderstorm anxiety on command, we can control distractions to work through.  What distractions might be similar to or help with overcoming thunderstorm anxiety?  There are a lot of things in life that can be new, startling, and sometimes frightening for dogs.  We start simple by having them hold or complete tasks/commands with us walking a circle around them, then move up to dropping, squeaking, and throwing their toys as they hold their command.  Then we move up to dropping and tossing their kibble, least favorite treats, up to their MOST favorite treats. We can work up to those more startling distractions, like holding a “sit” or “down” as a bicycle, motorcycle, or bus drives by getting closer and closer to the street (stopping at a safe distance) until it “ain’t no thang”.  We continue exploring to find more distractions and new environments to help dogs gain confidence and overcome their fears.  Although a motorcycle isn’t a thunderstorm, it is just one small way of overcoming a stressor (like presenting to friends) and achieving a victory.  #winning 😁 🎉 👏 🙌 

Beating the Storm

Through distraction training we overcome uncertainty and build confidence.  This way when the next storm comes, your dog has so many victories under their belt, they are much closer to overcoming their fear.  

Does YOUR dog have thunderstorm anxiety?  

There are tons of awesome dog trainers in Greenville, SC, but we would love to help your dog conquer his/her fears!



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