Thunder phobia and your dog

Today’s early-morning thunderstorm has ushered in the “scared-dog” season in the Upper Midwest.

Some dogs are scared nearly to death by thunder and lightning (or fireworks, or gunshots) . The Current’s Mary Lucia and I were conducting our own research (which usually consists merely of talking about it) a couple of years ago, but then my thunderstorm-hating dog died and the new Blog Dog couldn’t give a rip about the weather.

The most intriguing “solution” we found, however, is the assertion that rubbing a dog with “dryer sheets” can make a difference, and indeed both of us found they appeared to make a slight difference. Why? It removes static electricity, which may have something to do with why the mutt is freaking out, according to the Knowing Dogs blog.

Help reduce the possibility that static electricity is an issue by rubbing a dryer sheet, such as “Bounce™ lightly over your dog. Be sure to purchase the unscented variety. It is helpful to rub this on yourself as well, so you do not accidentally shock your dog when you touch him on a stormy day. Don’t wait until the middle of a storm to use this tip, simply rub the dryer sheet lightly over your dog’s fur every morning during thunderstorm season.

Thunderstorm phobia seems to increase in dogs as they get older; that’s led some to believe that the storm has something to do with aggravating arthritic pain .

Other possible aids? One vet suggests dressing your pooch in an old shirt. Be advised that if you try something like, we’re going to require pictures.

Many dogs seem to find comfort in a tight space. Bathtubs are a favorite refuge. They are seeking the security that a small or covered space can offer. For many dogs, you can provide comfort by putting them in a tight shirt or leotard, providing the sensation of being wrapped and protected. There are commercial variations on this theme. Many have magnetic properties or other special features which set them apart. What they generally have in common is that they are expensive. I generally recommend that owners start by putting an old shirt on the dog. You can snug it tight with rubber-bands and see if this helps calm the fears. If this provides some relief, you can feel more confident that the purchase of an anxiety wrap will be of benefit to you. I have many clients who just continue with a shirt and others who try the commercial products. For those who buy, there are a percentage who seem to improve further and then of course there are others who did as well with the shirt. I used to be surprised by the effectiveness of such a simple concept until I thought about the difference in laying down yourself with no covers or blankets- it is a feeling of exposure- which goes away quickly and irrationally if you just pull up a sheet.

If you’ve got a tried-and-true solution, or just want to help our “research,” pass it along below.