Thunder Phobia and our dog Cody

This spring has been particularly active with thunderstorms so it’s no wonder that so many of our training friends and other professionals in the business of dogs have been writing about thunder phobia. My purpose in writing this is to chronicle our own experience with our dog Cody who is very reactive to thunderstorms.

A little background. Cody an Australian Shepherd came to us a little over two years ago from the Valley River Humane Society, he was one year old. Cody has always been reactive to loud noises. Loud trucks, low flying airplanes, gun shots (we do live in the country), and no offense to my motorcycling friends, he hates Harleys, but thunder didn’t seem to bother him that first summer he was with us.

Now two years later he is better with most noises, he will react but recovers quickly, except for thunder. Many dogs have bad reactions to the sound of thunder or the flash of lightening that precedes it. Some of these dogs seek shelter in a close space or want to get near their people. Some even shake and drool. But Cody’s reaction is to bark loudly, and run from one end of the house to the other. It’s as if he’s trying to catch it or make it go away. He is in a state of panic, and it’s not easy to watch. We started out with some natural supplements such as melatonin, and Bach flower essences, but these had little or no effect. We next started using a pressure wrap, a Thundershirt. Many people have great success with these in helping relieve anxiety in their dogs but Cody was not going to be one of them. We still continued our work with counter conditioning as often as we could, and will continue to do so.

It was time to consult a veterinarian about possible medication. I was hesitant about this. I guess I didn’t want to think we needed to use drugs to help Cody. We have a wonderful veterinarian  Dr DeAnne Livingston at the Blairsville Animal Hospital and she prescribed alprazolam (Xanax) to be used prior to storms. We tried this treatment for a while but it seemed to have little effect. On our next visit to Dr. Livingston she prescribed fluoxetine (Prozac) to be used in conjunction with the alprazolam and that’s where we are now. It can take some time for the fluoxetine to get into the system so we are hoping that these drugs along with our counter conditioning will help Cody. For now, and actually as I write this, we are glued to the weather radar watching for incoming storms. Thank God for the internet.  I’ll post more as we go forward working to help Cody weather the storm.  ~ Brad

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is the author of The Original Rocket Recall™: Teach Your Dog to Come. She’s a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. The company’s trainers enjoy providing virtual behavior consulting and training solutions to clients around the globe and offers coaching, mentoring and behavior case support for pet professionals.


One Response

  1. I can feel for you. My past dog was too thunder phobic, a rescue, snd developed his fear at 2. I tried ehat you did along with some other things. Theo would eat walls, eat carpet, windows etc. It was a challenge to just keep him safe. For us xanex and tshirt, lights on. Fan on and tv on was the best way to help him. We had a very high dose of drugs. Feel free ti email me. Tonya

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