Training Your Best FRIEND: Sounds can be your best friend’s biggest nightmare


There are many ways to desensitize your dog.

There are many ways to desensitize your dog.

If you’ve lived in Florida for any amount of time, you know our state is the lightning and thunder capital of the United States.

Many owners notice their canines exhibiting stress and anxiety behav­iors during storms. This can include barking, urinating, defecating, hiding, chewing, panting, pacing, digging, drooling and escape behaviors. The same behaviors can be triggered by other sounds as varied as lawnmowers, trucks, motorcycles, vacuums or simply a pot crashing to the kitchen floor.

Many of these sounds can’t be avoided, so the first solution is management of the surrounding environment. Calm your dog by playing soothing music, closing curtains, encouraging your dog to use its crate as a safe house, providing a long-lasting chew or using canine eye and ear muffs. Vigorous exercise prior to a storm also can help to calm your dog.

Build a non-reactive environment prior to the sound event. Doing obedience and focus exercises with your dog two to three times a day for five minutes builds its confidence and the ability to stay calm during sound distractions.

Joe De Simone is an Animal Behavior Certified Trainer and owns Canine Command Dog Training. He can be reached at caninecommand@comcast.net.

Joe De Simone is an Animal Behavior Certified Trainer and owns Canine Command Dog Training. He can be reached at caninecommand@comcast.net.

You can also start desensitizing/ counter-conditioning your dog to the storm sounds by purchasing relevant CDs or downloads: Try “CLIX Noises & Sounds,” by Company of Animals, or go to trainaway.biz or just Google “CD for Canine Noise Phobia.” Begin by training your dog to tolerate exposure to thunderstorm sounds at a low volume while performing focus and obedience requests. Increase the volume of the sound incrementally over the next couple days while you continue to reward your dog for calm behavior.

Don’t expose your dog to a full-fledged storm until he is completely desensitized using the above method. Training should also be conducted in several different areas of the house to prevent localized learning. Keep a happy, confident posture and reward big time to let your dog know the sound is nothing to fear and actually brings petting, praise and treats. Make sure you do not reinforce any fearful behavior by looking at, touch­ing or talking to your dog if he shows a fear response.

Pack members look to their human leaders for cues about how to respond to the environment. Your calm confidence in the midst of a sound disturbance will not go unnoticed by your dog.

Your veterinarian may recommend a remedy available in local stores, or you can consider using a Thundershirt (www.thundershirt.com), anxiety wrap (www.anxietywrap.com) or the Storm Defender Cape (www.stormdefendor.com) which has metallic lining to help with the static charge triggered during storms. You can also try calming supplements such as CBD chews and tinctures from Treatibles.com (use coupon code “CCTV coupon 10” to get 10% off your purchase) or Composure by VetriScience. I have used a combination of these successfully for my firework phobic dog, Cleo.