A concerned reader has two dogs that hate lighting and thunder. Dr Platzhund gives advice about keeping a Border Collie and Staffordshire Bull Terrier calm during thunderstorms.
Q: I have a Border Collie and Staffordshire Bull Terrier and they’re both terrified of thunderstorms. They hyperventilate, shake and run around looking for a place to hide. What can I do to make my dogs more comfortable during thunderstorms?
A: You own the two most sound-sensitive breeds of dog. Most dogs suffering from brontophobia (fear of thunder) become panic-stricken, because their owners unconsciously teach them to be anxious by calling them into the house, comforting them, and nurturing their fear. There’s a genetic fault in both breeds and the only chance to prevent such occurrences is to be taught during puppy socialisation classes and basic obedience training on how to reward them for calmness during a storm. Classes like these also teach how to divert the dog’s attention if the first signs of anxiety appear. Puppies are also taught to play with loud noises going off, such as firecrackers, which prepare them to deal with thunderstorms. Other remedies include psychotropic drugs. Homeopathic medicines are also beneficial, but must be maintained throughout the rainy season. Another option is to be fitted with a copper collar and a copper chain or even the application of a ‘thunder jacket’. It fits snugly over the dog’s chest, gives a feeling of comfort and security, and also neutralises the electrical sensations felt all over the body. Sedating dogs during a thunderstorm isn’t always the best option, as it’s simply a short-term solution to a long-term problem.