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July 22, 2013

And The Thunder Rolls

Last night I was actually enjoying a rather sound sleep. These are few and far between for me as we let our animals sleep with us. Those of you who allow their pets to snuggle next to them in bed know all too well what I’m talking about.

Sleeping with your dogs and/or cats is like a guilty pleasure that isn't good for you. Sort of like secretly enjoying a whole box of Wagon Wheels all to yourself. You can’t help it because you love them so much but you know you’re going to pay for it in other ways.

Now usually the lack of sleep comes from being unable to move freely, one dog lying on my left side and the other on my right. They have me pinned down beneath the blankets making me feel like a trapped burrito. I imagine at any moment a bunch of guys are going to appear and start beating me with bars of soap wrapped in towels.

But not last night, no. Last night was a thunder storm. Mojo hates thunderstorms. These storms usually wake me anyway but I can usually just roll over and go right back to sleep. But last night as the thunder continued Mojo got more and more agitated and nervous. At about 15 minutes, Mojo was pretty much laying on my head and wouldn't stop fidgeting. I think the thunder started at around 3:30 and the alarm goes off at 5:00. Needless to say, I didn't get a wink from about 3:30 on, then the alarm went off and we began our usual morning routine.

Funny thing is our morning routine consists of a quick 10 minute walk around the block before breakfast. The thunder was still rolling off in the distance when we started walking outside but THAT didn't seem to bother Mojo, oh no, no problem with thunder when we’re out walking in it! Can’t interrupt our precious walking time, who cares about sleep time?

Anyway, I digress. The point to my blog today is to talk about the effects of thunder on dogs that get frightened by thunderstorms. After last night, I started looking around the internet to research the subject and found lots of good information. As usual there were a couple different points of view on the subject and it is my pleasure to impart some of what I found.

I read that fear of thunderstorms is common in dogs and that many dogs can sense a storm coming from the rapidly falling barometric pressure. Dogs may show anxiety even before the storm can be heard.
Here are some good points to remember:
  • Dogs can sense fear or discomfort from people, so it is important you develop a calm attitude toward storms.
  • Let your dog stay close, and try to distract him with play.
  • Keep windows and curtains closed to reduce noise and bright flashes.
  • Turn on a TV or radio at normal volume to distract your dog from loud noises and help him to relax
The one point where there seemed to be the most controversy was about comforting your dog. Some experts claim that you should not try to comfort your dog with a sympathetic voice; this will sound like praise and may increase his nervousness and confusion. Others felt this is a time when your dog needs you to make them feel safe and comfortable. This is after all an irrational fear and sometimes just being there helping your friend through a stressful moment is all they need. Personally I think it probably depends on your dog and the situation.
There are also products you can buy that help to ease their anxiety. A good example is shirts or coats specifically designed to alleviate stress by using a gentle, constant pressure to calm your dog. They’re available for cats too.  You can contact your local Tail Blazers as I believe they carry Thundershirt products in their stores.
I also noticed there are some wonderful calming solutions made from completely natural ingredients that are designed to lessen anxiety.

I even ran across some places online that sell recordings of thunderstorms to play for your dog to help desensitize them to the sound of thunder. Not sure how well this would work as I think a big part of thunderstorms is the sheer vibration caused by the big thunder claps. And if dogs can sense the storm even before it starts, playing a soundtrack might not be the answer. Anything is worth a try if you're dealing with an extreme case though.

Either way, do what you think is best for your dog and if you haven't got into the habit of letting your dog sleep in bed with you, take my word for it...don't!

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