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My 11-year-old, 25 lb terrier mix has a debilitating phobia of thunderstorms (and any noises similar to thunder: fireworks, gunshots, etc). I rescued her when she was about 1 year, and although she's always been sensitive to these things, it's getting worse in her old age. If she's alone when a thunderstorm happens, she will tear apart the house looking for someplace "safe", with closed doors being her preferred thing to scratch to absolute pieces. She reacts well to mild sedatives, but that only works if someone is home when the noises happen. Recently, she has taken to damaging the refrigerator in her panic and this is getting very expensive (and I'm sure it's very stressful for her as well). If locked in a room, she will claw at the carpet and doorframe until her paws are bleeding and the carpet is destroyed. The Thudershirt is not enough to calm her.

Is crate training appropriate here? Most other crating questions have to do with a new dog experiencing separation anxiety. I did use a large, wire-framed crate when I first got her and she had tendency to chew when I was away; as she settled in, this became unnecessary. In the past year, the times that there have been storms and I absolutely had to leave her, I put her in a large, plastic crate. She clawed at the door so fiercely that when I returned, her paws were bloody and she had defecated inside the crate. She hadn't been able to do damage to the house, but she had hurt herself and was totally freaked out. Now she has no positive associations with the crate and had to be FORCED into it during storms, further working her up. She's definitely a 'denner' and loves to spend time sleeping under a bed, under covers, in the back of the closet, etc. but she fears the crate. I know training takes time and patience, but I would like to know I'm on the right course before attempting it again. Can you teach an old dog new associations?

If crating her is the right choice, what kind of crate should I use to ensure her safety? During her separation anxiety phase, I had a very large crate because I felt guilty about confining her. Now I wonder if an overly large space actually helps her hurt herself. Is there any style that reduces the amount of clawing she can do on the inside?

thanks for reading and apologies if this has been answered elsewhere.
 

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I want to say yes, but don't put her in the crate, EVER, without her wanting to go in there herself. I would also pay the extra and get a plastic one with NO edges-it may get broken faster but she's less likely to hurt herself and break teeth chewing on bars. The ones that get used for travelling with dogs? You'd want to be VERY picky about it. I'm not sure this is the best option, though it would give her a safe place to retreat to eventually on her own. You wouldn't need to lock her in if she deemed it a safe place.

You might want to ask your vet about fluoxetine if you have thunderstorms more than once a week.

Other things you can try are recording a thunderstorm, playing the noise back on SUPER quiet, and rewarding her with treats-called counter-conditioning. This is probably the only training method that will aid directly towards her fears. As she gets more comfortable, the volume can increase-never past the point where she's comfortable.

In addition...what confidence building have you done? Has she done basic obedience? What about games, and exercise? If she keeps busy maybe she'll be less anxious waiting for the next big thunderstorm, and the more she learns the more confident she will be in general. It will take a long time if ever to fix such an extreme fear but it can be improved upon with training.
 
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