I have an embarrassing secret, and that is that I am afraid of thunder and lightning. More so the latter.
The humans used to think my misery was adorable. Every time I hear thunder or see flashes of lightning, I would walk discreetly to the room and hide under my grandparents’ bed – my safe space.
And guess what? The humans would just laugh at me!
By association, I am also fearful of other loud sounds coming from things like blenders and drills. Oddly enough, I am okay with the sounds of fireworks and airplanes.
Helping your dog overcome her thunder phobia
Well, I just turned four years old, and evil mama finally thought it is time for me to overcome this fear. Here’s how she is doing it:
Distract and let good things happen
While speaking with Barbara, our dog behaviourist contributor, she learned that making good things happen for me during a storm can help. The point is to distract me from fear and help me associate thunder and lightning with positive rewards.
And so mama has been distracting me with games and showering me with treats when the thunder rumbles and the lightning strikes (before they do if possible).
Now I don’t mind thunder so much because who doesn’t want treats? I am still fighting my fear of lightning but with a little more practice, I should be able to beat it!
You can distract your dog any way you see fit, such as asking her to perform a command and rewarding her when she does or getting her to play her favourite games.
Dos & Don’ts
- Don’t be like my humans. Start handling fears from day one
- Take it slow. Your initial effort to distract your dog and to create a positive association is to delay her fear reaction to the storm. Don’t expect to completely get rid of it within days – whether her phobia sets in 30 seconds or five minutes after the storm starts, it’s good progress. The most important thing – if your dog is in fear, stop. Avoid rewarding fearful behaviour
- At the start, provide your dog with a safe space. Observe where your dog likes to hide (e.g. crate, a dark corner) and keep that space available for her. When she’s in there, offer toys and treats to create a positive association
- Do not punish your dog. This will only aggravate her fear
- Do not reward unwanted behaviours, such as barking or whining