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We have an 8 year old Basset Hound that we rescued last December. She is absolutely terrified of rain. I think she can feel the pressure changing because she begins panting and shaking just when thunderstorms are headed our way. If she sees lightening way off in the distance she panics. She shakes, pants, drools, and becomes extremely clingy. I feel so bad for her and it really is taking a toll on us too. She keeps us up at night and we don't know how to respond to her. We usually give her benadryl 50mg per our vet's advice. It usually doesn't help much and by the time it works the storms are over. We don't want to cuddle her because we don't want to reinforce her behavior. But we don't want to scold her either because she is already terrified.

What do y'all do for your dogs who are terrified of thunderstorms?
 

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I had one of those - my big lab, for the last 4-5 years of his life.

We got plenty of advanced warning about storms because he would start pacing a hour before it started. There was no comforting him and it's probably not best to try too hard since you're feeding into the fear and actually reenforcing it.

All we could do is provide a "safe haven." My daughter's closet seemed to work, since he didn't have a crate.

Oddly, he usually wanted to go outside during the peak of the storm, but we thought that probably wasn't a good idea. Unlike some dogs, he never crashed through door or windows in a blind panic. It was more of an extreme restlessness.

In extreme cases, vets will prescribe a mild sedative. A low dose of Benedryl will help in some cases.
 

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Funny you say he wanted to go outside during it. My Basset always wants to go outside during them also. If we open the door she'll come barreling through the house to get outside.... It makes no sense why should would want to be out in it. If we do let her out she just pants and shakes harder than before. Then she is even more traumatized....
 

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A friend of mine's golden has severe thunderstorm anxiety. During storms he likes to be in the laundry room. What also helps is putting a shoe in the dryer and letting it thump around during a storm. I guess the sound distracts him.
 

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We used a small dose of valium with our storm-phobic dog. Fast acting, worked great and eventually he didn't even need it anymore unless it was a BAD storm.
 

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We don't want to cuddle her because we don't want to reinforce her behavior.
You cannot reinforce fear, as it is an involuntary response.

Behavioral researchers back in the 1940s, conditioned rats to jump to the other side of their enclosure in order to avoid the shock that followed a buzzer. In the next phase of training, the researchers changed the sequence so that cheese followed the buzzer and the shock was discontinued.

Over multiple experiences with cheese follows buzzer, even as the rats attempted to jump to the other side, do you think the rats became more fearful and increased their jumping behavior? That's what would happen if you believe the jumping behavior (and therefore the fear) was reinforced by the cheese.

Just the opposite occurred. The rats' fear decreased, the jumping stopped and they began to eat the cheese. This is an example of classical conditioning changing behavior by changing emotional state rather than operant conditioning rewarding fear.
http://fearfuldogs.com/fearstudy.html

For thunderstorms, I sit with my dog and give her treats. Previously she used to hide underneath my desk. Think it's working, too - last time we had a storm (the other night at 4:45 AM :eek:) she woke up, but didn't panic. I sat with her over in her favorite corner, scratched her ears and she dozed off. We went outside for her to pee once the worst was over and everybody went back to sleep.

Your dog sounds worse than mine, though, so I would not rule out medication of some kind in addition to simple counterconditioning.
 

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Leroy is afraid of them. He just hides in the bathroom or a closet the whole time... he doesn't bark/pace/whine, just hides. We don't give him any meds, I just throw a dog bed in there for him to be comfy. He seems to handle it ok.
 

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Disco is terrified of thunderstorms. She shakes, pants and stays glued to my side. I have been just ignoring her, but now I've started trying to associate them with good things aka treats. At first I didn't think she'd take them, but I've found hot dogs will get her mind off the pounding thunder. In fact we just had a 20 minute thunderstorm so we turned it into a 20 minute training session.
 

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i agree that with fear in dogs, it is never a good idea to ignore them, that just shows, IMHO, that when the dog is really frightened it has to fend for itself.., and to me that is not good, to me my dogs are my children, and as such, if they fear something ( dark, shadows,thunderstorms) i will comfort them and reassure them it is OK, and give them their fav toy or treat during that time, my mom always knows when a storm is coming with thunder ( the storm part NOT my dog), because her dog Butch, will do pace, howl, so, she will put him in the garage and place blankets, chewies and such to help comfort him.

so, please try to comfort and cuddle him to get him thru it, you are NOT reinforcing a bad behavior at all.
 

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so, please try to comfort and cuddle him to get him thru it, you are NOT reinforcing a bad behavior at all.
That's not correct. Dogs are not children or human and they don't understand that you are trying to comfort them in fact it's the exact opposite. When you coddle a dog in a fearful state you are in fact reinforcing that their reaction is correct. That there is something to fear. When you ignore them and go about your business in a happy upbeat manner you are actually showing them through your actions that there is nothing to fear.
 

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That's not correct. Dogs are not children or human and they don't understand that you are trying to comfort them in fact it's the exact opposite. When you coddle a dog in a fearful state you are in fact reinforcing that their reaction is correct. That there is something to fear. When you ignore them and go about your business in a happy upbeat manner you are actually showing them through your actions that there is nothing to fear.
That is what I originally thought... now I'm confused.
 

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That's not correct. Dogs are not children or human and they don't understand that you are trying to comfort them in fact it's the exact opposite. When you coddle a dog in a fearful state you are in fact reinforcing that their reaction is correct. That there is something to fear. When you ignore them and go about your business in a happy upbeat manner you are actually showing them through your actions that there is nothing to fear.
ok, so what you are saying is that dogs can NOT feel anything ( i e fear, worry, depression???) really, that is very interesting to me. so, could you please, and pardon me as i not trying to be rude, but, do you have proof that dogs do not understand that we are trying to comfort them? just curious. please do not be offended, but, do not say that i am incorrect either, i am a level headed person, but, to me, and alot of other people, their dogs ARE their children and do feel things, i dont care what it is ( fear, worry, stress, etc) they can and do understand that we are trying to help.
 

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As I said in another thread has anyone actually seen a dog get worse from petting and/or treating while afraid? Because in one year with my fearful dog, I haven't, yet I see a lot of people throwing around this idea of "reinforcing fear."

How is treating during a storm any different than sitting in a busy parking lot treating a dog who is nervous about the commotion? It's classical conditioning. It's Pavlov. It's pairing something scary with something really good. It doesn't work instantly, it takes repetition and it can take a long time. Sometimes you need a little extra something to help it along. (Think Storm Defender, herbs, Rescue Remedy, drugs, etc) But the concept of conditioning NEVER GOES AWAY.

I don't think petting does much unless you have a dog who works very well off of praise but treat giving is something to try. Read the Fearful Dogs page.. that woman Debbie has been working with her EXTREMELY fearful Border Collie for years. She knows her stuff.
 

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ok, so what you are saying is that dogs can NOT feel anything ( i e fear, worry, depression???) really, that is very interesting to me. so, could you please, and pardon me as i not trying to be rude, but, do you have proof that dogs do not understand that we are trying to comfort them? just curious. please do not be offended, but, do not say that i am incorrect either, i am a level headed person, but, to me, and alot of other people, their dogs ARE their children and do feel things, i dont care what it is ( fear, worry, stress, etc) they can and do understand that we are trying to help.
I don't think that is what the other poster meant. What I think he meant was that if you cuddle the dog, then that teaches the dog that they should be afraid of the thunderstorm and that they are correct in how they are feeling. He wasn't saying they don't have feelings.
 

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ok, so what you are saying is that dogs can NOT feel anything ( i e fear, worry, depression???) really, that is very interesting to me. so, could you please, and pardon me as i not trying to be rude, but, do you have proof that dogs do not understand that we are trying to comfort them? just curious. please do not be offended, but, do not say that i am incorrect either, i am a level headed person, but, to me, and alot of other people, their dogs ARE their children and do feel things, i dont care what it is ( fear, worry, stress, etc) they can and do understand that we are trying to help.
I am certainly not offended. I should have explained a little more.
I am not saying that dogs can't feel things. What I said is what WE as humans think is comforting, does not always translate over into dogdom. So when you fuss over them in a fearful state you can sometimes make things worse. But if you act calmly and show them through YOUR actions that there is nothing to be afraid of then that sends the message that "hey, my leader is acting calm, maybe I should follow the lead". I also don't mean by ignoring, that you just get up and leave them in the other room. You can most definitely acknowledge that your dog is stressed, but then try and get their mind on something else, like some yummy treats or some training. This has worked wonders for my fearful girl.
Here is a great blog on responding to fear.

http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/responding-fear
 

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I am certainly not offended. I should have explained a little more.
I am not saying that dogs can't feel things. What I said is what WE as humans think is comforting, does not always translate over into dogdom. So when you fuss over them in a fearful state you can sometimes make things worse. But if you act calmly and show them through YOUR actions that there is nothing to be afraid of then that sends the message that "hey, my leader is acting calm, maybe I should follow the lead". I also don't mean by ignoring, that you just get up and leave them in the other room. You can most definitely acknowledge that your dog is stressed, but then try and get their mind on something else, like some yummy treats or some training. This has worked wonders for my fearful girl.
Here is a great blog on responding to fear.

http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogs/responding-fear
That’s pretty much what I do. I don't agree with forcing the dog to fend for itself. Dusk is scared to death of thunder, and I would never put him in a room alone or make him go outside by himself. But I don't sit there and pet his head telling him everything is going to be OK either.

Basically I treat the storm like an everyday occasion. He seems to be calm as long as he can be wherever I am. And I do mean "wherever" I am. He will literally get out of his bed and follow me into the bathroom. But then he just lies back down next to me. I try to keep his bed in a corner, alongside my bed. Then he is in a sort of kennel environment. He seems to prefer that to laying or sitting out in the open.
 

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To pop in here for a moment.


When a dog is fearful, comforting it does not reassure the behavior, and will not make it worse. It's an old myth, same as if you play tug of war with your dog it makes them more aggressive. There both old myths.

Don't go all overboard with the comfort, but stroking their head and saying, it's okay, or it's alright, in a calm voice isn't harmful.
 
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