Written by Natalie, Pack Member
Astraphobia (Fear of Thunder)
For many pet owners, there is no sound dreaded more than the first rumbles of thunder before one of our notorious Florida storms. Astraphobia – the fear of thunder – is a common affliction, affecting almost half of all family canines. The loud noises and flashes of light cause a fear response that can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as hiding, whining, and trembling. In the most severe cases, the dog may run into furniture, bark incessantly, or even try to tunnel into walls! As many of us have found on July 4th, fireworks can cause the same behaviors. To us devoted pet parents, seeing our best friend so anxious is heartbreaking to witness. This fear can be difficult to address, so we’ve outlined some strategies here that may prove useful. Astraphobia often gets more extreme as dogs get older, so it’s important to teach them new ways to cope as soon as possible.
Learn to “Settle”
One method that can be helpful is to teach the dog the “settle” command. Teaching and practicing this command should be done when the dog is already relaxed, because the idea is to enforce and praise calm behaviors. Begin teaching the “settle” command in a distraction-free environment. Leash your dog and have them lie down at your feet, using the word “settle.” Start off with having your dog remain calm for a few minutes, and then work up to longer periods of time. Remember to praise the calm behavior enthusiastically! It may be useful to have a special inside leash so your dog will be better able to recognize the routine. After you have mastered the “settle” command, you can start rewarding them with a distracting snack like a stuffed Kong toy or bone. If this routine is practiced prior to a noisy event, your dog should remember what to do. Distracting an already calm dog with petting, toys, and treats will help them forget about the fear and replace that anxiety with something positive.
Create a Safe Space
If your dog is the type to want to hide during a storm, try giving them a covered, safe place to retreat to. You can cover their open crate with blankets that block out the flashing lights, or give them access to an interior room away from large windows. Try playing some background noise like music or fans for them too! However, it is critical to not forcefully confine a panicked dog; this can cause them even more worry and they may end up injuring themselves.
Calm Your Dog, Naturally
While each dog reacts differently to different approaches, here at St. PetersBARK we have a wide variety of calming supplements and tools. We carry ZenDog compression shirts, which are akin to swaddling a baby; the pressure of the shirt acts like a hug, inducing a calming effect. When it comes to supplements, we have both CBD* products and herbal remedies that are designed to soothe and calm. They come in a variety of different forms too, from treats to liquids to capsules! Some experimenting may need to be done to find the right choice for your dog, but we’ve gotten great feedback on all of the products we carry.
Keep it Positive
Implementing all or several of these strategies will help both you and your dog stay less stressed during noise making events. As a final note, while it is tempting to cuddle and reassure our friends during a storm or fireworks show, giving out this attention can reinforce the clinginess and anxiety. Remember to instead reinforce positive behavior and never punish negative behavior; fear, as we all know, is a difficult thing to overcome. It can absolutely be done though, with time, patience, and a little creativity!
We’re Here to Help!
For help with Astraphobia please don’t hesitate to reach out to us or stop by and visit! Most of us have pets with this type of anxiety and we are more than happy to assist in your search to calm your dog during our daily storms.
*We are currently unable to sell our Pet CBD on our online site due to restrictions with our payment processor. Please call or visit us to learn about our options or purchase.