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Any suggestions as to how I can help him overcome this fear or at least make the behavior more tolerable for all?

I've only had one dog which freaked out because of thunder / fireworks but if I could do it over again I'd attack the problem in a different way. I was always reactive not proactive because Mother Nature isn't at my disposal. This probably won't be practical but it is doable. Desensitize and CC your dog with equivalent triggers which you control. I'd use firecrackers, a reliable aide, distance threshold, engagement of a drive mode and of course some genuine praise when appropriate. Essentially create a similar environment but one which you control and can be proactive and DS/CC your dog.


Easier said than done but near threshold exposure coupled with a pleasurable diversion and the dog maintains is always a step in the right direction. Personally, I don't think there are any quick fixes for what you describe but formulating a long term plan is probably more practical.
 

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Discussion Starter #22
Jabrock, could you please clarify who you are asking questions about taking treats in your post that starts with:
"Thank you for the clarification. I was just looking at your offer for treats and things"

A bit unclear since many people have shared here:)

Thx!
I am sorry for being so unclear. I am new here and still learning. Thank-you for your patience.


I believe it was you that was talking about "rain snacks" and treats you would leave around to encourage your dog. I can't get mine to eat anything. He can hardly settle down enough to follow basic commands.

Any suggestions as to how I can calm him enough for a special treat or toy/game?
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Jabrock, could you please clarify who you are asking questions about taking treats in your post that starts with:
"Thank you for the clarification. I was just looking at your offer for treats and things"

A bit unclear since many people have shared here:)

Thx!
Thank you for reading my posts and I do hope they can help you guys! It makes me very happy to know that you haven't given up on your dog and you are seeking help. So many folks give up or never even try--- and their poor dog stays in the same over stressed mental state for his/her entire life. So sad.

I had never had a dog with any storm/rain phobias (or really any phobias) and I've had dogs for over 25 years nonstop. Gracie came to us greatly afraid of so much. Honestly I had never even heard of fearful dogs before Gracie. Because I was so determined to help her overcome her fears and live a better life, I have studied and worked with her myself nonstop for the past three years to learn how to help her.

Many dogs have thunder phobia. And a zillion other phobias.

Some fearful/shy/cautious dogs are
a)genetically prone to be nervous or cautious or shy
b) some were undersocialized as pups
c)some had bad experiences
d) some were abused
e) some neglected
f) some are just uncomfortable(or afraid) of anything new or novel.
g)some have an associative fear, like maybe maybe a dog heard a loud bang sound while a bicycle went past. Bike didn't cause the sound but was there at the same moment. Hence dog becomes afraid of bikes and then you have to counter condition your dog to think bikes are wonderful and not scary.

I think my Gracie was a combo platter, but born that way to some extent. And she is super intelligent and hyper aware (blue heeler)which only increases her stress in some ways..but that is for another post.

Great (and easy to read) article on understanding dog fear here:
https://thebark.com/content/naturally-fearful-dogs

Naturally Fearful Dogs
Not all “scaredy” dogs have been mistreated.
By Karen B. London PhD,

Thank you so much for your suggestions and read ideas. I am definitely going to look up those articles.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
I've only had one dog which freaked out because of thunder / fireworks but if I could do it over again I'd attack the problem in a different way. I was always reactive not proactive because Mother Nature isn't at my disposal. This probably won't be practical but it is doable. Desensitize and CC your dog with equivalent triggers which you control. I'd use firecrackers, a reliable aide, distance threshold, engagement of a drive mode and of course some genuine praise when appropriate. Essentially create a similar environment but one which you control and can be proactive and DS/CC your dog.


Easier said than done but near threshold exposure coupled with a pleasurable diversion and the dog maintains is always a step in the right direction. Personally, I don't think there are any quick fixes for what you describe but formulating a long term plan is probably more practical.
I do understand that there is no quick fix for this, I hope I don't come across as such. Barney is 5 years old and I have had him since he was a pup. This has been ongoing since we got him. We have tried several things that our vet as well as friends have suggested to no avail. I also understand that we have to give things time. I would think that doing something consistently for 6 months would show at least a little improvement if it is going to help. We have seen no improvement with anything that is why I am reaching out here. Possibly someone has had similar experiences. We have tried the "near threshold exposure" method. It made things worse. I know that it may work for some dogs, but I did not have any luck with it.
 

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I do understand that there is no quick fix for this, I hope I don't come across as such. Barney is 5 years old and I have had him since he was a pup. This has been ongoing since we got him. We have tried several things that our vet as well as friends have suggested to no avail. I also understand that we have to give things time. I would think that doing something consistently for 6 months would show at least a little improvement if it is going to help. We have seen no improvement with anything that is why I am reaching out here. Possibly someone has had similar experiences. We have tried the "near threshold exposure" method. It made things worse. I know that it may work for some dogs, but I did not have any luck with it.

What I learned, working with my storm phobic dogs, especially Zody, is that the first place to start is to stop the downward spiral they are on with the phobia. I watched Zody, getting worse and worse before I started with the medicine. At his worse he made himself sick with colitis and would spend 3 or more hours hiding after the storm had passed. One day I think I saw him maybe 3 or 4 times in a 24 hours period, he'd come out then go right back into hiding. He also would not take treats at his worse.

I knew he wasn't getting worse on the medicine, and had finally started to improve. He would come out of hiding within an hour of the storms passing, he could come out and take treats, or if the storm was really bad at least take food while hiding, if I put his food near his hiding place he'd come out and eat, although with all of it he'd go back under the couch or bed when the food was gone. That's where we are at now, and it's taken me years to get him to this point. I'll continue to work with him, and it's my hope that he'll one day be able to stay out or hiding during mild thunderstorms, but I don't have much hope. If he never gets to that point I'm satisfied that he's still not terrified hours after the storm has passed.

6 months really is not that much time, unless you've been having thunderstorms blow through for the majority of that time. Where I live we can go a month or more before we have any storms and then it might only be one or two days of them, and to make matters worse I might not be home for part of one or both those days. That means in a month's time I only have a couple days to work on his phobia and for part of those days there's a chance that the thunder is happening when I"m not there and is undoing part of the headway I had made. Because of that it's a very slow crawl forward and the ground is full of black ice just waiting to slide us back. I got him when he was 1 years old, and he's now 5 years old, I've been using medicine for the phobia the past 3 years.

How do you measure his progress? Are you looking at fractions of inches or inches. I learned the hard way to look for the fractions. Such as look, he's coming out of hiding 5 minutes sooner then the used to and he's done so for the past 4 storms we have, or look he'll take treats form me while he's hiding, before he'd not touch them. I about did a happy dance a couple months ago when he asked to go out and potty after a storm, he's NEVER done that before. He shivered, the entire time I got his harness on and carried him out to his potty spot, he peed quickly and came to me to be carried back in still shaking, but he did it and he asked! In the past I had to lure him out if he'd been hiding for more then 10 hours. It just took me 4 years to get him to this point.
 

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No worries. I just didn't want to answer your question if you were asking someone else. I am pretty new here, too, so I am still trying to learn how to navigate this site.

So, unfortunately I can't give you a quick solution to calming Barney down in the actual moment of the storm. What I have found with my Gracie is that is is a gradual process of baby steps that are done over time.

I am trying to change Gracie's mindset about how she feels about thunder so that she won't over stress or go into panic mode like she used to.

The suggestions I wrote about have to be done as MANY times as possible when it rains/storms for it to work for the dog to not be as freaked out about storms over time. Gracie goes to work with me everyday so that made all training easier. And on days that it was going to thunder, we stayed home with her if it was at night or on the weekends--- so she was never alone at all during any storms (or fireworks). Now she can be left alone if it is not too crazy of a storm.

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about your dog not being able to follow commands. I am just happy when Gracie isn't shaking, panting or hiding and can eat. If she can follow cues, great. If not, put a leash on your dog indoors if you have to move her around the house. I do it if needed, and Gracie actually feels safer on a leash with me.

If you can tell me a bit more in detail I can maybe help you figure out some baby step ideas you could start on.

1)So first of all, will your dog eat anything when it simply rains? (no thunder/ high winds)

2)Have you determined what is the highest value food your dog will work for in general? For Gracie it is cheddar cheese, meat, chicken livers/gizzards, etc.

3) Have you tried getting (stinky) wet canned dog food and letting your dog lick it from a tupperware or bowl? Gracie will lick only, rather than chew at first when nervous.

4)What have you tried already that did not work? Did anything help in your opinion, even if only a tiny bit?

5)Have you provided Barney a "safe hiding spot" in your home that he can go to when he is nervous/afraid?

6)Did you put your robe (or pjs or tshirts with your scent) down in his safe spot to lay down on for extra comfort?

7)If he comes to you during storm, are you offering support and compassion.... or did vet tell you to totally ignore him? What did you do in the past based on what others told you? We always give Gracie tons of love and support--- and are so GLAD when she wants to hang with us now, instead of in her hiding spot.

8)What type of "near threshold" training did you do? Can you explain in more detail (method and Barney's response)so we can help out?

I find that when working with fearful dogs it is a really fine line between advancing them to the next level emotionally, and going over threshold and making them more fearful and less wanting to trust us. Sometimes you have to push them or coax them, but so gently and compassionately--and with tons of patience..(and higest value rewards!!!)

Measuring the tiniest itty bittiest success is how we succeed with our fearful dogs. Think about it, even people take years to change when they have issues. And it takes a lot of work, and the right methods.

And like Rain mentioned it is extra hard to help dogs overcome thunder fear because we only get so many days a year to work with them, right? And even then, we have to be ultra prepared to work with them.

But my method I outlined DO work. Gracie can now happily take a walk in the rain, whereas she would not even step one foot outside in rain in the past. And she will many times now come curl up on couch next to us during storm. And her recovery time is incredibly fast. This last thunder, she was in kitchen with us about 15 minutes after storm was over and begging for what we were cooking!!!
 

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Hello,

I have had many customers over the years tell me that the Thunder Shirt really helps! In fact I have had more than one dog client dropped off at the salon with it on for nervous/fear response and it really works! Its like giving your best buddy a firm hug that doesn't end:) Dog Anxiety Vest | Shop Dog Anxiety Treatments | ThunderWorks

In the past I used to drive my border collie out of town for the night every fourth of July....when you know the fireworks are going to happen it is a great night to head out of town for a long drive with your best buddy....any time you can avoid the fireworks that's the best and any time you can use the thunder 'shirts' on a dog during a storm it really helps.
 

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We have tried the "near threshold exposure" method. It made things worse.



Then you were over threshold and of course it made things worse. The starting point in DS/CC is critical, A twitch of an ear, the slightest hesitation in normal behavior, a change of a dog's gait, a difference in the dogs' breathing, tail position, head raising or lowering etc, etc....the most subtle difference(s) in a dog's "normal" behavior is probably more than enough to expose any dog to when beginning and proceeding forward as new levels of success are accomplished. Utilizing ( taking advantage of ) a dog's drives and/or having the dog successfully execute commanded obedience while the source of the dog's "phobia" is present, no matter how slight is somewhat the goal.



I'm curious how did you simulate " near threshold exposure" of thunder?
 

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Discussion Starter #29
Then you were over threshold and of course it made things worse. The starting point in DS/CC is critical, A twitch of an ear, the slightest hesitation in normal behavior, a change of a dog's gait, a difference in the dogs' breathing, tail position, head raising or lowering etc, etc....the most subtle difference(s) in a dog's "normal" behavior is probably more than enough to expose any dog to when beginning and proceeding forward as new levels of success are accomplished. Utilizing ( taking advantage of ) a dog's drives and/or having the dog successfully execute commanded obedience while the source of the dog's "phobia" is present, no matter how slight is somewhat the goal.



I'm curious how did you simulate " near threshold exposure" of thunder?
He's also frightened of fire works. We had some of the little poppers that kids toss on the cement and they crack. My husband took some about a block away and even though I could not hear it, the dog heard it and went crazy. If you have any other suggestions as to how to go about this I am open to suggestions. There are just some sounds that scare him no matter how loud they are.
 

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No worries. I just didn't want to answer your question if you were asking someone else. I am pretty new here, too, so I am still trying to learn how to navigate this site.

So, unfortunately I can't give you a quick solution to calming Barney down in the actual moment of the storm. What I have found with my Gracie is that is is a gradual process of baby steps that are done over time.

I am trying to change Gracie's mindset about how she feels about thunder so that she won't over stress or go into panic mode like she used to.

The suggestions I wrote about have to be done as MANY times as possible when it rains/storms for it to work for the dog to not be as freaked out about storms over time. Gracie goes to work with me everyday so that made all training easier. And on days that it was going to thunder, we stayed home with her if it was at night or on the weekends--- so she was never alone at all during any storms (or fireworks). Now she can be left alone if it is not too crazy of a storm.

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about your dog not being able to follow commands. I am just happy when Gracie isn't shaking, panting or hiding and can eat. If she can follow cues, great. If not, put a leash on your dog indoors if you have to move her around the house. I do it if needed, and Gracie actually feels safer on a leash with me.

If you can tell me a bit more in detail I can maybe help you figure out some baby step ideas you could start on.

1)So first of all, will your dog eat anything when it simply rains? (no thunder/ high winds)

2)Have you determined what is the highest value food your dog will work for in general? For Gracie it is cheddar cheese, meat, chicken livers/gizzards, etc.

3) Have you tried getting (stinky) wet canned dog food and letting your dog lick it from a tupperware or bowl? Gracie will lick only, rather than chew at first when nervous.

4)What have you tried already that did not work? Did anything help in your opinion, even if only a tiny bit?

5)Have you provided Barney a "safe hiding spot" in your home that he can go to when he is nervous/afraid?

6)Did you put your robe (or pjs or tshirts with your scent) down in his safe spot to lay down on for extra comfort?

7)If he comes to you during storm, are you offering support and compassion.... or did vet tell you to totally ignore him? What did you do in the past based on what others told you? We always give Gracie tons of love and support--- and are so GLAD when she wants to hang with us now, instead of in her hiding spot.

8)What type of "near threshold" training did you do? Can you explain in more detail (method and Barney's response)so we can help out?

I find that when working with fearful dogs it is a really fine line between advancing them to the next level emotionally, and going over threshold and making them more fearful and less wanting to trust us. Sometimes you have to push them or coax them, but so gently and compassionately--and with tons of patience..(and higest value rewards!!!)

Measuring the tiniest itty bittiest success is how we succeed with our fearful dogs. Think about it, even people take years to change when they have issues. And it takes a lot of work, and the right methods.

And like Rain mentioned it is extra hard to help dogs overcome thunder fear because we only get so many days a year to work with them, right? And even then, we have to be ultra prepared to work with them.

But my method I outlined DO work. Gracie can now happily take a walk in the rain, whereas she would not even step one foot outside in rain in the past. And she will many times now come curl up on couch next to us during storm. And her recovery time is incredibly fast. This last thunder, she was in kitchen with us about 15 minutes after storm was over and begging for what we were cooking!!!
I am starting to believe that we are actually on to something with him. The vet gave us Trazadone and we give that to him before the event (when we know about it).



We have had mild storms over the last couple of days and I have been watching him for the subtle queues. We have been trying the meds and working with him for almost a year now and I just didn't think we were making any progress.


Watching closely and thinking back, I do believe he is showing mild improvement. Tonight there is lightning in the distance and a low rumble of a storm. He has been sitting at my feet chewing a bone but not an all out panic. He also went outside for a very quick potty. Although it is a very light, distant storm, in the past he would have been running around and panting.


Thank you so much for helping me slow down and take a closer look. I believe I was just not looking close enough for the small victories. I am definitely going to look at those articles and continue to look for those little victories. I need to slow down and learn to help him through this. Thank you.
 

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Counterconditioning to Help Dogs Get Over a Fear of Fireworks

Here is a good short video showing how to counter condition your dog to fireworks.


Counterconditioning to Help Dogs Get Over a Fear of Fireworks
DGP Dog Behavior Videos

 

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Similarly, when I am counter conditioning Gracie to anything fearful or stressful, I always take note of what food/treat she is willing to eat at that moment AND whether she can do any of her fun tricks. If she can give me a kiss, or shake, or say meow, etc than I know she is doing pretty good at that moment.

Like today, it is 100 degrees here and Gracie is still somewhat afraid of hose water. So I played with my new puppy and the garden hose in our backyard, while positioning Gracie far away where she could just watch. I then went over to her, offered her kibble...no thanks. But she said YES for the delicious BBQ brisket!!

Then after I shut off the water and hung out for a few minutes with her to relax her, I offered Gracie the kibble again to test how she was feeling. This time, she eagerly ate the kibble. And she sat on cue and gave me a kiss on cue! And then Gracie let me gently put some hose water on her several times in exchange for some big blobs of yummy oatmeal.

In the past she NEVER would have been able to eat ANYTHING in the presence of hose water. Major Progress. Yeah!
 

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My late Jack Russell was afraid of thunderstorms. He used to shake all over then run and hide in his basket and wouldn't come out until it was all over.
 

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My late Jack Russell was afraid of thunderstorms. He used to shake all over then run and hide in his basket and wouldn't come out until it was all over.


My first, long since gone GSD, was about the same but she would jump on the bed and basically lay on our heads if the thunderstorm or fireworks occurred at night. Freakish behavior IMO and I really never appreciated the dog's phobia nor tried to DS/CC the dog. I suppose the reason was, is that I wasn't "telegraphing" any trepidation because I rather enjoy thunderstorms and fireworks and it certainly wasn't because I didn't " love " on the dog enough as some might suggest but I certainly didn't coddle the dog either at these particular moments.



I somewhat believe that dogs with a certain genetic trait are essentially destined to be more intimidated by the "unexplainable" and if they can't connect the dots they resort to this type of behavior.



I now know that a dog with weaker nerves can somewhat be conditioned to deal with the unexplainable but many times it can be a long journey if the human chooses to educate the dog.
 

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Just want to share a wonderful update on my progress with our Gracie on her storm fear issues. Maybe it will inspire some of you to try my storm fear training methods:)

The other day we were all settling in to go to bed about 12:30 pm. All three dogs were finally settled in their special sleeping spots. It had been a hot sunny day here. All of a sudden across our TV screen came a severe thunder warning with possible hail!!! And it was only about 10 minutes away, heading in our direction. Crapola! We hadn't heard about any storms prior for that day.

Truthfully, I was so tired and really did not have the energy to get back up and start our counter conditioning with food, etc like we normally do every single storm. But...... of course, I would get up and do it because it is SUPER important to me to help my sweet Gracie, AND I am determined to get her to the point that she is no longer bothered by storms/thunder.

So as I am telling my lazy self to get my butt up and outta bed to get the treats before the storm arrives, I look over at Gracie...... and she is lying down in her spot all cozy. WAIT....she did not tell us that the storm was coming???? Whaaaaat??? She ALWAYS tells us by pawing at us nervously panting, and climbing over our heads on our pillows like a cat (Blue Heeler mix Gracie is 40 lbs, so a bit bigger than a cat)

So we turn the TV up a bit to partially mask any thunder that may come (yeah right) and decide for once to wait and see....

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No stress response whatsoever from Gracie!! She never even tells us. I sneak a few more peeks at her -- and she never even gets up! Still snoozin' away. And we get lightening and thunder and heavy rain.

FIRST TIME EVER! My counter conditioning methods are absolutely working! All that hard work, patience, understanding, comfort, and science based counter conditioning is actually changing her mindset about how she feels about storms/thunder!!

If anyone doubts that it works, I will tell you it does!! Your dog does not have to live in fear/stress the rest of his/her life.
 

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I joined this forum specifically looking for help with my dog's fear of fireworks, thunder and gunshots.
I adapted the method shown in the video when a thunderstorm occurred last week.
I had positive results.

The thunder storm occurred shortly after we got home from our evening walk-about. 90 minutes on leash with some off leash time in a wooded area. I fed my dog as usual and he was relaxing when the first lightning flash occurred.

I called my dog with "Check in." That's our cue to look at me and come. The thunder boom arrived while he was moving and he got nervous, but I repeated our cue, got his attention back and offered a treat. I held the treat in my finger tips rather firmly so he had to nibble it and not simply gobble it. There was then a lull that I took advantage of by having him sit, and I got more mentally prepared for the next lightning flash and thunder roll.

It went pretty well and we did this for about 20 minutes.

I'll let you all know how our practice proceeds. The 4th of July is coming and I'm hoping we have a calmer month than last year.
 

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The fears of sounds and storms can be genetic or from past abuse but trust me dogs and animals can sense the barometric pressure changes before any storms come well in advance.
I get vestibular migraines, which means I don't usually get awful headaches but I get very dizzy and driving, functioning, working or even walking sometimes can be very difficult. There's no good medication that stops them since it's not something a painkiller effects.

My doctor is amazing and does research on these migraines and vestibular issues in general. Luckily I take a preventative medication daily which enables me to function. However any kind of storm is a huge trigger for my migraines. I can tell the day before a storm when we're getting them. I basically can't function.

Interestingly my dog is very sensitive to many sounds. If I cough or a cat jumps on the bed or people yell or make noise on my building he jumps a foot in the air. Any sounds by my door he goes crazy barking, anyone yelling or acting threatening he acts like hell kill.

Thunderstorms and fireworks? No problem. I'm watching two other dogs this weekend and we were at the dog park last night. I realized why I'd been feeling lousy all day when suddenly we got caught in a huge lightning storm. Dog was fine.

I take him right to the local right ER to watch the fireworks every 4th of July. We're in a huge crowd and the fireworks are loud and nearby. He sleeps at my feet after watching the first few and checking the area for other dogs to meet and play with. Could care less.

But he'll jump a foot in the air then sigh dramatically and cover his face with his paws lol if my phone goes off when he's sleeping, or a cat jumps up, or some minor noise. Yet sleeps soundly through half an hour of fireworks! Lol
 

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It is weird/interesting how dogs respond to different sounds. When Frank and I were new to each other he would startle if I scraped my foot on a leaf or a small branch or a pile of gravel. Shifting my position on the couch would worry him, too.

We do a fair amount of walking and I'm improving my ability to see what's going on for him as far his mood, energy and willingness to focus with me. I'm paying more attention to weather forecasts and looking for changes in him as different pressure systems move across the Great Lakes area.

There's nothing tangibly scientific about my observations, but he did seem a bit off yesterday with less focus and walking tighter than normal on his end of the leash. Nice sunny spring day, but there was a well publicized forecast of an approaching late winter storm for today.

I looked into https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestibular_system. Interesting stuff.
 

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Hide ans Seek

Buddy usually starts panting & dribbling then disappears to the back bedroom when there are fireworks.
I'll go follow him & give him a pat & a cuddle, then leave him until he comes out when the noise eventually stops.
 
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