"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Thunder Revisited

– Posted in: Behavior Problems, Columns, Fear, Fear and Anxiety, Sounds, Thunder
Dear  John,
My min schnauzer, Olive, has increasingly become fearful of various noises – fireworks noises in particular.  She pants heavily, will not settle down, and her whole body shakes.  Her shaking and panting became so extreme that I thought she might have a heart attack. Any suggestions on how to resolve this problem?
Eve E.
Fireworks and  thunderstorm and firework phobias almost always go hand in hand. I’m getting many call and emails for help from around the country as it’s been just a heck of a summer for thunderstorms and there are a lot hurting dogs and dog owners out. 
This isn’t usually a loud sound problem as much as it’s an over head sound problem . Thunder, fireworks, hot air balloons, gun fire etc. are common triggers. Some duck hunting dogs are gun shy because no body bothered to expose them to over head gun fire incrementally between 3 and 12 weeks of age and after that should they hear gunfire they think there’re caught in a drive by shooting and then it’s feet don’t fail me now.
If your breeder didn’t start playing high quality thunderstorm and fireworks sound tracks and give you a copy to keep playing during the following parts of you’re puppy’s development you may very well have a dog that ranges from distraught to jumping through windows in order to fine somewhere to hide.
Get a high quality sound track of both fireworks and thunderstorms. Quality speakers placed high, play it fairly loud and gauge your dog’s reaction. If it freaks it’s a good thing as we can now have a tool to desensitize the dog by playing the storms over time over and over until it’s just back ground noise. It doesn’t work for all dogs, but if you have a dog with thunder or fireworks phobia you’ll be willing to try anything to bring your dog relief. Find a setting that is on the low end of discomfort and keep it on non stop until your dog will take a treat or toy. Might be same day, might be a week. Some dogs have been scared so long they’re started to connect and respond to precursor to storms, barometric pressure, ion inversion in the air. For these dogs the sound track alone isn’t going to help an investment in a storm vest has helped a lot of dogs in the desensitization process. I have thunder and fireworks sound tracks and can forward the web site for the storm vest if you want to write me.
It has been suggested there are various natural and prescription medications. I’ve never found  they work often but you can’t have too many tools in your tool box. The anti-anxiety prescription drugs have to given all summer and I’ve not seen great results. The natural remedies I’ve never seen any. I’ve heard claims but far more reports that a prayer to the god of thunder would have produced better results. If you have a dog like this though you’ll be ready to try anything.
John Wade
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