With the heatwaves always comes a period of thunder and lightning, some dogs may not be bothered but some dogs will be very stressed.
In the UK thunderstorms and lightning have been prevalent and it's super important to be prepared.
Closing the curtains, playing music, turning on white goods, providing mental enrichment games as well as chews and or physical play if your dog is able to play is super important.
You can absolutely comfort your dog if they will allow you, especially if they initiate needing comfort.
Provide safe cosy spaces and lots of escape routes, we may deem a space as cosy and safe but our dog may feel safer elsewhere so it's important to respect this and give them choice of the spaces within the home.
Preparation is key for storms and advanced preparation can really help as many dogs are sensitive to the change in barometric air pressure.
Myself and others have found that sound isn't enough alone for desensitisation as dogs are so clever they identify the sound being flat.
Using a subwoofer creates a bass and even gives off vibrations with the sounds which is a lot more realistic. Which is great for the desensitisation process, I've used this myself for my multi species within the home and clients have also had great success.
They can be purchased from amazon or ebay for around £20.
As a thunderstorm is coming, closing the curtains and having music playing as well as a white noise machine, helps to drown out noises from outside.
Many white noise machines offer different frequencies and wavelengths for your individual dog, playing with the frequencies to find the most soothing can be incredibly helpful.
Bring the sofa away from the wall to create a tunnel, if you have two sofas or a sofa and an armchair to create a den like children do, if you have a dining room table this can also be turned into a den.
You may have a pop up crate, they can be really useful, and can be made super cosy.
Some people turn cupboards under the stairs into a really cosy dog room, some even put up fairy lights, posters, pictures and a TV!
The other thing we need to make sure is ready is either frozen licki mats or Kongs or fresh Kongs and Licki mats, as well as our enrichment games and brain games.
These again all need to be ready before, so that we can settle the dogs before the storm. We want them relaxed and mentally stimulated before the storm and we don't want to cue a fear as the storm begins.
Make a poster for the door and explain you will not be answering the door due to your pup training for the storm. Also post this to social media if you are likely to have friends or family visiting to ensure that nobody is going to disturb you.
I can't stress enough if they need a cuddle, then cuddle them as this is absolutely fine and cannot reinforce fear.
If they want to hide, sitting near them and reading a book can be helpful.
Here are some fantastic articles for further reading: Karalina Westlund https://illis.se/en/eliminating-firework-and-thunder-phobia-in-dogs/
Fear Free Pets has a brilliant article and examples of consent training. https://fearfreepets.com/stationing-behaviors-how-to-teach-consent-skills/
The Do No Harm Dog Training and Behaviour Handbook by Linda Michaels MA from Amazon https://amzn.to/3PhC74z The handbook not only teaches about fear and desensitisation but also teaches about enrichment and explains in depth why working on these behaviours and providing enrichment is so important.
Help! My dog is scared of Fireworks by Toni Shelbourne https://amzn.to/3Alwo8N
The Relaxation Protocol by Dr. Karen Overall will be very helpful https://journeydogtraining.com/karen-overalls-relaxation-protocol/
I also have these videos on my YouTube of thunderstorms and fireworks desensitisation.
Within the videos I am utilising a wireless Sub Woofer speaker which you can get on ebay or Amazon for about £20. This makes the sounds so much more realistic.
Enrichment prep https://youtu.be/KLTdr6c6vqI
Desensitisation and support for thunderstorms https://youtu.be/_nqpdl7a7CY
Firework desensitisation https://youtu.be/DygQqzykxFk
Working on desensitisation sessions throughout the year can be really helpful in ensuring your dog is comfortable with fireworks and thunderstorms or at least as comfortable as they can be.
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