Did any of you grow up hating thunderstorms? I did, and I hated them with a passion. Yes, I realize that “hate” is a strong word, yet it totally fits what I remember. Cowering under the covers, hands covering ears, wishing for it to be over already, and praying to God not to let any monsters come out from under my bed or jump inside my room through the window.
Fast forward three decades and I am no longer afraid of thunderstorms. On the contrary, I actually enjoy experiencing them now. So what happened?
I started to realize that thunderstorms were so much more than just loud noise and black skies and focused more on their cool features. I mean, isn’t it pretty impressive what the forces of nature are capable of, and doesn’t it look super duper pretty when lightning turns the horizon into a free light show?!
But enough about me and back to the topic of this blog post – desensitizing (my) pups to thunder. Although, when I think about it, my own feelings towards thunder and lightning might actually help Missy & Buzz feel less agitated about the whole thing.
Since doggies are so good at reading people’s body language and their energy, I’m under the impression that they sense my relaxed attitude towards t-storms. I’m pretty sure that they would copy my stressed out behavior if I would still hide under my covers during a t-storm!
Treats Trump Thunder – Appealing To The Pups’ Stomachs
Besides being relaxed when storm clouds roll in, I pull out the one card that’s going to trump the vast majority of noises – treats. Missy has always been a slave to her little stomach and will do anything for a treat, and ever since I started feeding raw food and introduced less processed treats, even Buzz will drop his beloved ball for a bite of a doggie delicacy.
We have a few favorite ones that I listed under my “Healthy Dog Resources – Single-Ingredient Treats” tab.
When & How I Use Thunder To My Advantage
So what I do when we experience a t-storm is treat the pups every single time thunder rolls. It’s that simple. I’ll either have a bag of treats sitting on my lap or wear my Mighty Paw (<- non-sponsored review) doggie treat pouch around my waist.
Now obviously it’s great to practice calm behavior whenever an actual thunderstorm happens to be rolling in, but I found another way to prep the pups for the real thing back when they were only a few months old – YouTube! I’d simply look up videos of thunderstorms, play them, and every time there was the sound of thunder, the pups got distracted with treats! Work(ed)s like a charm, y’all.
So, let’s recap – my dogs pick up on my attitude towards things. Since I’m relaxed around thunder, so are they.
I underline that behavior by handing out their favorite treats whenever thunder rolls (understanding that lightning is followed by thunder makes the timing of pulling out treats easy) and practice with videos of t-storms I find on YouTube.
It’s all about shifting a dog’s focus from a negative perception over to a positive one, similar to the transformation I underwent, except that my motivation weren’t edible treats but the beauty of nature!
Have you tried desensitizing your dog(s) to the sound of thunder? Do you have an additional tip for the K9sOverCoffee audience? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!