Wow what an incredible storm last night! Admittedly, I heard it rather than watched it and happily both dogs were un-phased so I didn’t need to get out of bed for them. To be honest, I’m not sure old boy Kenny can hear it! But happily, Chili has learnt not to be fearful.
How do I show her that she can relax during what can be a particularly confusing and frightening time? Well, clearly if you’re reading this you are already familiar with Jan Fennell’s Amichien Bonding method. So with all 4 cornerstones of the method in place, the dog having elected you main decision maker of its own free will, here are my 3 top tips on how to help a dog who shows fear during a thunderstorm:
1. Give them somewhere to be that feels safe. If they sleep in a crate, cover the top with a sheet or blanket so they feel safe from above, whilst still leaving enough air to circulate in this hot weather. Otherwise how about creating a safe den with a sheet hung over a couple of chair backs with his bed underneath, again leaving gaps for air. Sometimes, simply a blanket gently laid over the dog where he has chosen to lie down will help alleviate his stress.
2. Be calm yourself and don’t be tempted to soothe. As decision maker in the household, you might like to be in the same room with the dog for reassurance but make sure you do not engage with a dog that is showing fear of thunderstorms. No eye contact and no soothing words to the dog. It’s important you ‘act normal’ 🙂 The dog will look to you for guidance on how to react and showing him your stress will feed his own stress. If you go about your business (ie. sleeping or just getting on with daily tasks) without showing signs of concern the dog will relax more easily. It can be really stressful to watch your frightened dog during thunderstorms or fireworks but it’s really important you take some deep breaths yourself, remain calm and pay him NO attention, as any attention may be misconstrued by the dog as a confirmation that yes-this-is-a-scary-thing-and-we-should-be-scared-waaaagghh! Being calm and confident yourself is the most soothing thing you can do for your dog.
3. Employ a Calm Freeze. Finally, once you’ve put everything else into place and you are also in a calm state you can employ a Calm Freeze on a dog who is pacing, panting, barking or generally freaking out. Without eye contact or speaking to the dog, gently but firmly simply hold him by the collar as still as you can and wait until his anxiety-led behaviour has dropped down a notch or two. When you release him from your calm freeze he should decide to find a safe place from here he can settle and wait the storm out. This is what wolves would do in the wild – it’s very normal for an animal to find a safe place and wait it out. If your dog goes straight back into the stressed behaviour, repeat the calm freeze. Be very matter of fact about it all. Absolutely no eye contact or speaking to him!
Hope that helps! It works for thunderstorms and fireworks and any potentially scary noises.
If you have the Dog Listener DVD Jan demos a calm freeze at about 1hr10mins. For any further information just give me a shout!