Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Thunder and Other Rumbles" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Thunder and Other Rumbles

by Charlotte Peltz

The loud noises of thunder, and the rockets that blast away in this lovely town of San Miguel, often cause dogs all kinds of problems. Puppies, who encounter such noises during the early stages of their lives, very often never have problems. However, a couple of things can happen. One is that the summer thunderstorms do not coincide with a pup's early days, (ditto the horrendous racket of the rockets that so often soar into the heavens.) That means that they may well view the horrible sounds differently when they hear them later in life. Another problem is that something terrible happens -- terrible in the eyes of the pup -- (or older dog) -- at the very same time that the racket is going on!

That terrible "thing" could simply be fireworks happening at the moment the pup was scolded for some behavior that did not suit his beloved owners. Or he was hungry and crying for dinner. Or he was at the vet's for his second vaccination! Or -- you fill in the blank.

For dogs, thunder is considered to be a noise in a very separate category from any other loud noise. There is something in the air as well as whatever hits the dog's ears. During thunder storms dogs will often head for the bathroom and wrap around the toilet bowl, get into the tub or somehow attempt to physically connect with water pipes. Attempting to ground electrical charges? Nicholas Dodman, BVMA, MCVS, author of, An A-to-Z Guide to Understanding and Curing Behavioral Problems in Dogs, suggests that in addition to the noise of thunderstorms, "there is static electricity that generates painful shocks, especially in larger, heavily-coated breeds." All those water pipe connections seem to supply the grounding that gives dogs relief. Some owners have gotten successful results by applying anti-static products directly to their dogs!

Trying to help the dog with thunder problems may well be in a separate category from other noises. With that in mind, one can buy tapes of thunder that can be played with the idea that slowly increasing the volume will condition the dog to the rumble. One can play the "1812 Overture" during thunderstorms in an effort to outclass the thunder. But such efforts are probably best directed towards helping the dog adjust to loud noises other than thunder.

Real success in helping our canine companions may come from other areas when it comes to thunder. Melatonin has been used with great success. This is an over the counter product used by humans to relieve insomnia. It is available here in San Miguel and is known as melatonina (this is not the brand name.) What I liked about the report I read is "Melatonin isn't a sedative. It didn't put her to sleep; she stayed awake and alert. Thunder just didn't bother her any more." I really like that part about "alert."

Dr. Dodman, who runs the behavioral section at Tufts New England Veterinary Medical Center, along with Dr. Linda Aronson, found the supplement to be successful with other loud noises as well. While Valium has been used, it definitely drugs the dogs and there are potential side effects. Especially in this town when one considers the number of times such a drug would need to be administered!

What I encountered when I bought melatonina was that the tablet size is a larger dose than what is considered appropriate for most dogs. As always, care must be used when administering any medication.

But, let's not stop with something sold over the counter. An article in the May issue of Whole Dog Journal, presents impressive coverage of canine acupressure and Tellington Touch treatment (developed by Linda Tellington-Jones.) Videotapes and books clearly explaining her work are available and she has given workshops here in San Miguel.

What one should avoid, when dogs show fear, is to try to assure them. What that does is praise them for the behavior they present at that moment! While comforting a terrified pet may be your first impulse, keep in mind that the dog views that action on your part as praise and, therefore, will produce the same behavior in the future under that same condition. And NEVER punish a dog for being afraid. Since dogs can and do injure themselves and cause great damage to their surroundings in attempts to escape or seek security, do not take fear of loud noises casually. Seek help, but avoid simply drugging your canine buddy.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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