Thursday, October 6th, 2011 | Guest Post, Storm Phobia, Through a Dog's Ear, Thundershirt | Comments Off
I am lucky enough to have a few guest posts waiting in the wings. Today, you’re going to get a post from Kim Matthews, a dog-owned person in Alabama, about her experience with storm phobias and anxiety. Kim is currently owned by two dogs, and volunteers with rescues such as ESRA.
Earlier this year I started noticing my mixed breed dog Bogey had started to exhibit some anxiety during thunderstorms.
I’d had an extremely thunder phobic dog previously and did everything wrong to try and help her. I had made a commitment that if another dog ever had the same problem I would approach it differently than I had with poor Charlotte.
Bogey’s behavior was not nearly as extreme as Charlotte’s was but he was obviously becoming anxious during the intense storms we have on the Gulf coast. He would start to pace, and whine and bark…..a lot. After the first few episodes I decided to try a couple of things I had heard and read about for dogs with thunder phobia or storm anxiety.
First up was a CD I had read about in the Whole Dog Journal®. It is called Through a Dog’s Ear. I was able to download one of the CD’s from iTunes for $9.99. It is basically a compilation of classical music that is played at a slower tempo and it is almost hypnotic.
I started out by putting the CD on when my dogs and I went to bed. It became part of our bedtime ritual – potty, “night-night cookies” and then we’d head to bed. I would put the CD on after I turned out the lights. It worked like a charm – for me!
I tried it during a fairly mild storm with Bogey in his crate and the CD playing. He went right to sleep and slept through the storm. I was sold!
I then decided to try something else my friends in Golden Retriever rescue had been raving about for several years – the Thundershirt®.
I have to say that on this product I was a little more skeptical. The premise on how it relieved anxiety in dogs (the manufacturer claims it works much like swaddling a baby) was something I’d had absolutely no experience with. It seemed like pretty much every baby I’ve ever seen had been screaming!
However, I saw where they offered a money-back guarantee and started reading and looking at some of the testimonials on their website and on their Facebook page. With their guarantee, I decided I had nothing to lose but the shipping costs.
When the Thundershirt® arrived I opened the package, pulled it out and just laid it over Bogey’s back and fed him liver. He didn’t seem to mind that at all.
Over the course of the next couple of days I would put it on him for a few minutes longer and reward him with something tasty.
The next time I actually put it on him, fastened the velcro and fed him his supper. I did that for several days and he didn’t seem to pay any attention to the fact that he was now wearing spandex.
I didn’t have to wait long to try it during an actual storm. As soon as I heard thunder – I quickly turned on the CD and got the Thundershirt® out. As soon as I put it on him I started quietly praising him and feeding him chicken. He was so focused on the chicken I don’t think he even heard the thunder.
I can tell a noticeable difference in Bogey’s anxiety when he is wearing the Thundershirt®. During the last storm I went and got it out of the closet, he came and sat in front of me for me to put it on him (such a good boy!), got on his bed and went sound asleep. I have had a chance to use it several times during the past few weeks and have seen it have the same effect on him.
Overall, I would rate it a 7 out of 10 and have since recommended it to a number of my dog friends who have used it with some success as well.
I would caution anyone who decides to use these products to manage this behavioral problem to be very careful about the association with the shirt or the CD with the actual storm. I strongly suggest you start using these tools when the weather is good because I think there is a good chance a dog could start to make the association with the music or the shirt with the actual storm.
I would also suggest that anyone with a dog that suffers (and they truly do suffer) from thunder phobia or storm anxiety at least give one or both of these methods a try before using medication.
I am also very aware of my own anxiety level and behavior during a storm. I’m sure that Bogey (and poor Charlotte before him) could sense me becoming tense myself because I knew I was in for a sleepless night or a frustrating afternoon when I heard that first crack of lightening or roll of thunder. I have to remind myself not to get anxious that I now have the tools to deal with the problem.
There are a number of CD’s available from Through a Dog’s Ear. You can find out more on their website.
The Thundershirt® is also available on the web.
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