This summer has been especially hard on Logan, my thunder-shy Lab. It seems we are hit with a massive storm (or tornado) every week which leaves Logan to catapult herself around our house looking for a safe spot, while trying to herd us all into that safe spot, while panting, drooling and whatever other verb could fit this scenario. In short, it’s not good.
We got Logan like this. She came with her baggage. Being a first time dog owner, I coddled her and picked her up and sang songs to her every time it rained. The little creature shook in my arms with wide brown eyes. It was heartbreaking.
Four years later, despite knowing she’s in a good home and there’s at least a roof over her head, she still panics like this storm is the one that will do our whole block in.
Here’s what we’ve tried:
Here’s what the dog trainers DO NOT want you to do. Dogs apparently don’t have the same emotional depth as humans do, or they don’t relate our coddling them to being reassured the threat is not there. Instead, and this is according to several trainers, if you coddle a dog during a storm, you are rewarding them for panicking. Thus, every storm after, they will seek this attention…
Verdict: I still do it. I can’t help it. Logan is my fur-baby. However, she does demand this attention every time, which includes the middle of the night. She has successfully learned how to take my blankets off my bed, so she can alert me that there is a storm coming.
I write that I don’t have a result because I have bought Logan a storm jacket but have not yet been able to use it. I understand the principle: dogs that are scared of thunderstorms are very sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. By giving them a gentle, continual squeeze, they are not so attuned to the barometric changes and can relax a little. I have bought one for Logan but I can’t force myself to squeeze it as tight as it needs to be. I’m going to add more [and stronger] Velcro in hopes that this will work.
Verdict: If your storm crazy dog runs around as much as Logan does, this is a no-go. The one time we put it on her, she jumped up on someone (to tell them it was raining, of course) and the Velcro popped right off. They’re meant to be very tight, but if the dog moves at all, it’s null and void.
Result: It works, but only for so long.
Trainers say that in a storm, you should “leash ‘em up and put ‘em to work”. Well, have you ever asked a child who was terrified of going down the drain to do a spelling test in the tub while the water was draining? Okay, bad example, but same idea. If the dog (or child) is terrified of a devastating upcoming event (like the water draining) there’s only so much you can do. Especially now that Logan is turning five and knows we’re going to scoop her up if she looks miserable, she’s not going to work for much.
Verdict: Go for it. It may work for you.
In short, if Logan looks very uncomfortable, we do give her a light sedative. I know many trainers who think this idea is absolutely ridiculous and have been able to work their own dogs through it, but I invite them to work with mine. Let’s face it, the Northwest suburbs are rainy, even when it’s supposed to be summer.