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Afraid of the Storm

  Behavior problems are one of the most frustrating challenges we face as pet owners. In so many cases we know the behavior we don't like but are at a loss for why they occur. There is no analytical "couch" for our pets to lie upon and tell us their feelings. In many cases we only see the destructive behavior and become frustrated because there are few easy answers. The other frustration is that so often with behavior problems we need to change the way we interact with our pet on a daily basis and end up unwilling to do so. Finding the time on a day to day basis in working with our pet's behavior usually just compounds our frustration. Storm phobias or fears are common in our pets and we now are in the season that we commonly see these storms. There are two ways that we help our pets get through the storm fears they have. Behavior modification is an effective tool but time consuming and one that many pet owners are unwilling to follow. Helping our pet get through the crisis is an approach that we often find ourselves in. Helping the pet through the storm involves minimizing the distress they undergo when a storm is approaching or has already arrived. The difficulty in this approach is that anticipating the storms arrival is a challenge. The other difficulty is there is no one size fits all answer. This approach involves finding a safe place for the pet when a storm is approaching. The safe place involves finding an area that the sound of the storm will be minimal. It often involves the use of the dog crate since many pets find their crate comforting. While in the crate a chew toy is given to help alleviate the fear factor. Sometimes we also use a drug that calms their fears. We must find a therapy that calms the pet but does not sedate them. This takes a few storms to achieve the proper medicine and dosage. Unfortunately in many cases we need to give the dose ahead of time to be effective and thus we are back to forecasting storms. Changing the pets' response to storms is a very effective behavior tool. By using a recording of thunderstorms and desensitizing the pet to the sounds over time we eventually change their response to storms. Adding a counter-conditioning tool, such as while the recording is playing sitting with your pet and hand feeding a treat, strengthens the response of the pet and makes for more successful training. These are very effective tools but many pet owners find them too time consuming. Other suggestions for use during storms are the use of pheromones that have a calming affect on pets. Anxiety wraps are useful in some pets and the use of L-theanine which is a natural supplement that will work in others. There are many ways to alleviate the fear associated with storms but unfortunately there is no one way to help all pets. By Rick Kesler, D.V.M.
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  •   Behavior problems are one of the most frustrating challenges we face as pet owners. In so many cases we know the behavior we don't like but are at a loss for why they occur. There is no analytical "couch" for our pets to lie upon and tell us their feelings. In many cases we only see the destructive behavior and become frustrated because there are few easy answers. The other frustration is that so often with behavior problems we need to change the way we interact with our pet on a daily basis and end up unwilling to do so. Finding the time on a day to day basis in working with our pet's behavior usually just compounds our frustration. Storm phobias or fears are common in our pets and we now are in the season that we commonly see these storms. There are two ways that we help our pets get through the storm fears they have. Behavior modification is an effective tool but time consuming and one that many pet owners are unwilling to follow. Helping our pet get through the crisis is an approach that we often find ourselves in. Helping the pet through the storm involves minimizing the distress they undergo when a storm is approaching or has already arrived. The difficulty in this approach is that anticipating the storms arrival is a challenge. The other difficulty is there is no one size fits all answer. This approach involves finding a safe place for the pet when a storm is approaching. The safe place involves finding an area that the sound of the storm will be minimal. It often involves the use of the dog crate since many pets find their crate comforting. While in the crate a chew toy is given to help alleviate the fear factor. Sometimes we also use a drug that calms their fears. We must find a therapy that calms the pet but does not sedate them. This takes a few storms to achieve the proper medicine and dosage. Unfortunately in many cases we need to give the dose ahead of time to be effective and thus we are back to forecasting storms. Changing the pets' response to storms is a very effective behavior tool. By using a recording of thunderstorms and desensitizing the pet to the sounds over time we eventually change their response to storms. Adding a counter-conditioning tool, such as while the recording is playing sitting with your pet and hand feeding a treat, strengthens the response of the pet and makes for more successful training. These are very effective tools but many pet owners find them too time consuming. Other suggestions for use during storms are the use of pheromones that have a calming affect on pets. Anxiety wraps are useful in some pets and the use of L-theanine which is a natural supplement that will work in others. There are many ways to alleviate the fear associated with storms but unfortunately there is no one way to help all pets. By Rick Kesler, D.V.M.
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