The story goes something like this:
"When the thunderstorm started I didn't feel like going outside with my dog, Max, so I just opened the door and let him out. He had his electric collar on, and even though it was nighttime, I could see him from the kitchen window. I heard a huge crash of thunder and he took off running right through his electric fence. There's a stretch of woods behind my house and I couldn't see where he went. We've been looking for him for two days, but we've had no luck. I'm heartbroken."
If your dog is afraid of thunder, wind and loud noises, storms can be a nightmare for the family pet.
With no way to dispel their fear, pet owners usually just try to hold and comfort the poor dog until the storm passes.
Although seeming to be counter-intuitive, animal behaviorists believe that holding and comforting your pet when he exhibit signs of fear during storms (or fireworks) just reinforces his fear reaction. Your dog will never learn how to cope with the fear and will continue to display anxiety each time storms arrive.
There are some ways to reduce this anxiety and, in some cases, completely alleviate this fear reaction.
Quiet, soothing music played during storms may comfort those dogs with a lesser fear of thunder. For those dogs play time with a interactive toy such as a Kong filled with peanut butter may distract him from his fear. Again, do not use the toy as a treat and reinforce the fear reaction. If you have a warning of an upcoming storm, give the dog his toys or treats before the storm arrives.
Those that exhibit high degrees of anxiety may require more drastic measures.
In extreme cases, playing tapes of thunder, initially at very low levels and increasing the level sound over time - combined with positive reinforcements for positive behavior response - may, given enough time, condition your pet to the noise and alleviate the problem.
One of the easiest solutions (and least expensive) is the use of Bach Flower's Rescue Remedy. For those pet owners familiar with holistic and natural remedies, Rescue Remedy may be a familiar staple. A few drops placed on the dog's tongue or in his drinking water just before a storm may relieve his anxiety and allow your pet to weather the storm in a natural, relaxed way. Works for people, too.
A new product on the market claims to reduce fear and the resultant anxiety associated with storms in more than 80-percent of the dogs who have used it. The Thunder Shirt, is a wrap that applies gentle pressure to the midsection of your dog. According to experts, pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system.
If all methods have failed and your dog manages to escape, another new, high tech product may be the answer for you. This product may just save your dog's life and your sanity.
Worn on his collar, the TAGG, pet GPS system, is a small plastic device that actually tracks your dogs movements and location. Tracking is done on either your mobile phone or your computer. You pre-determine and program the parameters of tracking and the screen will pinpoint the dog's exact location, assuming that he's still wearing his collar and he's still within the prescribed parameters.This product is also great for dogs that escape on a regular basis.
If you often travel with your pets in your car, consider this device. So many pets are lost at rest stops. Your dog bolts out of the car and just keeps running. Newly adopted dogs with no real home are lost in the same way. If he had been wearing this device, his movements and location may have been tracked, saving a year of hard life as a stray.
Cat owners take notice as well. It works for them too.
Downside: the batteries only last 30 days so you need to be diligent about changing them out regularly.
Before the next storm like Irene hits, be prepared. Start now employing some methods to reduce your pet's storm anxiety. At least it will be one less hassle to deal with when the power goes out.