Category Archives: Dog Anxiety

Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs

The storm season began early this year! We had thunderstorms last night and Chipper kept me awake. I put him on Solliquin pills a week ago and apparently the effects can take up to 30 days to show an effect. Last year I had used Harmonease, which is no longer produced, so my vet gave me Solliquin.

Do you have a fraidy dog?

Chipper & Harmonease

Chipper and Harmonease

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Chipper’s almost Immune to the Sound of Fireworks

Chipper is my success story.

He’s become almost immune to the sound of fireworks.

Last year he slept at my feet through the grand finale, less than a mile away.  I remember sitting in front of the computer with a 20-inch box fan set at high speed to make my upstairs office more comfortable in the heat.   Sure, the sound of the fan helped dim the sound a bit, but not by much. Continue reading

Fireworks, Thunder, Loud Noises – Oh My!

Chipper and Harmonease

Chipper and Harmonease

It’s starting again – firecracker season – is your dog ready? Are you? The fourth of July is just around the corner.

Two years ago, Chipper’s anxiety caused him to hide under my mom’s bed, cringing and shaking for the month-long celebration of the holiday that occurred in his old neighborhood.

Cassie used to wake us up in the middle of the night by pacing on top of us. I dreaded the nights when the thunderstorms continued for hours, leaving me sleep deprived.

So why are dogs afraid of thunder and fireworks? First, they can hear much better than we can and can feel changes in the atmosphere, such as drops in barometric pressure during a storm. But usually their fear is due to us – yes us. The first time the dog cringes or pokes us after hearing a loud noise, what do we do? We pet them, cuddle with them, thus reinforcing the effect. I always try to de-sensitize my dogs by taking them camping, to fireworks displays, and not making a big deal of the noise. Cassie wasn’t afraid for years, until an extremely loud clap of thunder directly over our house made me jump out of bed, and startled her as well. I probably petted her, and she became fearful ever since.

What can we do?

  • I recommend Harmonease anti-anxiety pills for dogs http://www.harmonease.com/ Harmonease will not make them dopey. It has no visible side effect that I can tell. It’s a natural blend of extracts of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense.

I started Chipper and Cassie on these pills in July 2013 and have not looked back. Chipper receives a half pill a day during thunderstorm season, from late April through late September. Cassie did too, until she passed away last month. Chipper now only has mild anxiety during the loudest sounds, such as the evening of the Fourth of July, or a loud clap of thunder, causing him to poke me gently or lay at my feet, very easy to tolerate. After the worst part of the storm passes he goes back to sleep.

  • A training tip I have used once on a friend’s dog (Zolabud) who was crazy out of her mind with fireworks shot off while we were camping. It’s the “settle” command discussed in this article on WebMD http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/dog-storm-phobia . I placed Zolabud on a tight leash and stepped on it, making it very tight, so she could only lie down. After a few minutes of struggling, she lay down and didn’t cause any more problems the rest of the night.

Fraidy Dog

Cassie in her Thundershirt

Cassie in her Thundershirt

Summer is still here and by now you have found out if you have a fraidy dog. You know what I mean. The dogs that shake, whine, paw at you, and make you feel their misery over thunderstorms, fireworks, and loud noises in general – except for their barking.

I’ve always trained my dogs to be used to thunderstorms and fireworks. We’d frequently go camping and get caught in all sorts of bad weather, including hail, strong winds, and of course thunderstorms. I’d even take them to the fireworks celebration. They didn’t love it, but learned to tolerate it. But then there’s Cassie, my current dog, a ten-year-old liver and white springer spaniel. She, like my last few dogs, went camping through thunderstorms and the noise didn’t particularly bother her.

Until, August 2008, in the middle of the night an extremely large thunderbolt exploded directly over our house. Everyone jumped, instantly awake. I thought a tree fell on the house, it was so loud. Cassie stood between me and my husband and shivered violently. Of course we comforted her, which probably was not the right thing to do, but we had to, she was afraid. The storm quickly passed and everything was okay. Until the next major storm – Cassie shook again and paced around on our bed, stepping on our legs, waking us up. It happened once more that summer, and then we forgot about it until the next May, when the windows were open and the thunderstorms started again. This year, even thunder in the distance started bothering her. Then fireworks – mostly the loud M80s. We tried to ignore her, hoping that if we did she would not feel rewarded for her fear. It didn’t help.

The following summer it was worse. We went to a party where my grandkids were throwing the toy poppers (or bang snaps) on the ground. Cassie was terrified. There were other kids at the party and they were all throwing them, not at her, but at the ground. She continued to shake.

Two years ago, while walking her home from work, she’d hear a popper or a small fire cracker several blocks away. Immediately her tail went down between her legs, she stood close to me and shook. What could I do? This fear was getting worse!

During any thunderstorm she would pace on our bed, stepping on me and waking me. Somehow my husband could sleep through all but the worst of it. During one long thunderstorm, I brought her cage up from the basement and put it in my bedroom and locked her in it. At least then she wasn’t walking on me. She scratched at the pad in the cage, trying to relieve her nervousness. I put in ear plugs.

Thundershirt’s – I heard about them, although now they have made it into the pet stores. Ah this would relieve my problems – I ordered one immediately (http://www.thundershirt.com/).

The first time I used it was at the start of a storm, just before going to bed. Cassie lay there panting heavily. She seemed quite hot in the shirt. We had fans on since it was in the upper 80’s – not the air conditioning, which didn’t work too well upstairs in our bedroom. Cassie seemed too hot. I took it off. I waited for another storm and put it on her earlier. The weather was cooler, but she still panted heavily. Again I took it off. Thunderstorms always occur when it’s warm, so when could I use it? I put it in a drawer and never used it again.

I tolerated the sleepless nights during thunderstorms. If things got really bad, I locked her in her cage. But I felt bad doing it. I’d wake up an hour later and let her out.
Last summer one of my Mom’s cocker spaniels, Chipper, got so bad because of the fireworks that she convinced her caregiver that she needed to work overtime to stay late with her until the worst of the fireworks ended. This happened for several days, and when I realized this cost about $500 in overtime pay, I had to do something.

On July 5th I asked my vet what could be done. She recommended Harmonease anti-anxiety tablets (http://www.harmoneasevet.com/Harmonease_30Tab_10-0495.pdf). They take about a week to start working, but many people find that it helps. Of course after I started the pills, it seemed that we had hardly any thunderstorms.

This year, after I inherited Chipper, I started both Cassie and Chipper on Harmonease after the first big thunderstorm in mid-May. It’s not a hundred percent, but both of them have much less anxiety during storms. Now only the loud thunderclaps cause them to be near me. No shaking and no waking me up at night, unless it’s a severe storm. They are no longer afraid of little pops and storms far away.
So I still have a fraidy dog – actually two of the three that I now have, but it’s much more tolerable and I can at least get a good night’s sleep.