Home
Behavior & Training
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Reducing Fear in Your Dog

Understandably, many a client has asked, “But isn’t giving him treats when he’s barking and growling just going to make him worse? Won’t he get reinforced for barking and growling?” The answer is no, not if his behavior is driven by fear. Remember, fear is no fun, and a few pieces of food, no matter how yummy, aren’t going to override the brain’s desire to avoid it.

Tossing treats (or toys) to a fearful dog can teach him to associate approaching strangers with something good, as long as the treat is really, really good, and the visitor is far enough away to avoid overwhelming the dog. CCC is one of the most important tools in a trainer or behaviorist’s toolbox, yet it can be hard to convince people to try it. It feels like rewarding a dog for misbehaving, and in our punishment-oriented, “you’ve got to get dominance over your dog” society, it is tough for some people to do. But that’s exactly what I did to cure another Border Collie, my Pippy Tay, when she developed a fear of storms many years ago.

CCC is one of many ways you can help a thunder-phobic dog. I’ve used some of the following with good success, either on their own or, in Pippy Tay’s case, combined with other methods: pheromone therapy, wraps, acupuncture, acupressure, diet change and, in serious cases, medication. If your dog is afraid of storms, you’d do well to consult a behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist for assistance in choosing the method that is right for you and your dog.

Thunder Treats
Pippy and I would run outside and play ball every time a storm loomed. Pip loved ball play, and I wanted her to associate the feelings she had when fetching with a drop in barometric pressure. Once the storm rolled in, we’d go inside and I’d feed her a piece of meat every time we heard thunder, no matter how Pip was behaving. I wasn’t worried about her behavior; I was focused on the emotions inside that caused the behavior.

I even put thunder on cue. “Oh boy, Pippy, you get thunder treats!” I’d say each time we heard the thunder growl. Mind you, these words would come through clenched teeth at three in the morning, but for two summers, I chirped about thunder treats, pulled out the drawer beside the bed and fed Pip after each thunderclap. By the end of the summer, Pip stopped lacerating my face with panicked attempts to crawl inside my mouth to hide from the storm. She began to sleep through moderately loud storms, not even waking up to beg for treats when the thunder rolled. She came over to me when things got really loud, but with little of the panic she’d shown before.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should share that as Pip improved, I became conditioned in the other direction. I began to dislike storms, because even the quietest of them required that I stay awake long enough to hand Pip a treat after each thunderclap. And now that Pip is gone, it seems I’ll have to start again with Lassie. Sigh. Maybe I should give myself a piece of chocolate every time I hand a treat to Lassie!

Fear Is Contagious
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the one way you can make a fearful dog worse, and that’s by becoming scared yourself. The emotion of fear is so compelling that it is easy to spread around. “Emotional contagion” is the ethological term used to describe the viral spread of fear within a group, and it’s a common occurrence among social species. If you want your dog to be afraid of thunder, strangers or other dogs, just get scared yourself. If you’re afraid of storms, it is entirely possible that your dog will pick up on it and become more nervous.

However, if you are scared (and who isn’t sometimes?), all is not lost. You can calm things down by concentrating on your body—slowing down your breathing and your movements, changing your posture to one of confidence and relaxation, and speaking slowly and calmly (if at all). These actions have the beneficial effect of altering your own emotions as well as your dog’s. The calmer you pretend to be, the calmer you’ll actually feel.

Print|Email
CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Karen | October 26 2009 |

This is another excellent article by Patricia B. McConnell, PhD that needs to be deseminated to the dog owning public! Thanks to Patricia for all she does for dogs! Thanks to Bark for publishing articles by a positive trainer!

Submitted by John | October 31 2009 |

Nice article, but any dog I have worked with REFUSED treats when they are in a fear state of mind. A lot of times treats DON'T work especially if the dog is a high level of UNSTABLE mind.

It's true that if you are scared the dog will pick up on that.

I've also had an experience where a dog locked on the back of another dog because he reacted out of fear since the dog he locked on snapped first at him. So his fear reaction made him attack back. Right before the attack the dog gave submission signals, but the aggressor didn't stop so the feared dog did what is natural and attack back.

I couldn't get the dog to let go, cuz everyone was yelling, so I told everyone to stop, take a deep breath and I calmly told the dog to let go, and he let go of the neck. I was holding the dog and I believe he felt my energy and trusted me that I would make sure the other dog wouldn't attack back.

My point is that I don't believe in showing affection to an unstable dog. I choose to do everything with my energy, since the dog will pick on that quicker and respond quicker than if I just give him a treat. I'm definitely not going to pet a fearful dog, especially if it's not one I own. You'd be an idiot to pet a fearful dog.

Submitted by Martina Schoppe | December 22 2009 |

I confess, I'm an idiot, and I will gladly keep being one, because CCC works.

Submitted by John | October 31 2009 |

Nice article, but any dog I have worked with REFUSED treats when they are in a fear state of mind. A lot of times treats DON'T work especially if the dog is a high level of UNSTABLE mind.

It's true that if you are scared the dog will pick up on that.

I've also had an experience where a dog locked on the back of another dog because he reacted out of fear since the dog he locked on snapped first at him. So his fear reaction made him attack back. Right before the attack the dog gave submission signals, but the aggressor didn't stop so the feared dog did what is natural and attack back.

I couldn't get the dog to let go, cuz everyone was yelling, so I told everyone to stop, take a deep breath and I calmly told the dog to let go, and he let go of the neck. I was holding the dog and I believe he felt my energy and trusted me that I would make sure the other dog wouldn't attack back.

My point is that I don't believe in showing affection to an unstable dog. I choose to do everything with my energy, since the dog will pick on that quicker and respond quicker than if I just give him a treat. I'm definitely not going to pet a fearful dog, especially if it's not one I own. You'd be an idiot to pet a fearful dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 1 2010 |

John, being calm is great, and you're right that a dog in a frenzy usually won't take treats. But if your dog's already in a fight, you just need to get him out of there--that's not the time to try counterconditioning.

You use high value treats--something the dog really likes, not something you think he should like--and you start at a distance where the dog is aware of the trigger but not reacting yet. Then you gradually work your way up. A lot of people advise you to get the dog to do some other behavior, like sit or watch or whatever, but what I've found with my own reactive dog is that doing straight CCC first--teaching the dog simply that this thing he's afraid of now always means good stuff for him--makes it easier down the line to get the dog's attention and give actual cues (sit, let's go, watch me) that can help manage a situation.

Submitted by Paula | November 2 2009 |

Thanks for clearing up my own confusion about the article on thunder. I've had great success using treats to reduce my beagle/terrier mix's reactivity to other dogs. For years she frequently charged dogs we met on our walks, barking, pulling on her leash with the hair on the her back straight up. Since she is a small dog and easily controlled, this behavior was unpleasant and embarrassing, but not dangerous. Eventually it occurred to me--Duh!--that this probably wasn't much fun for her either. I had taught her to sit for treats, and started asking her to sit for a treat when I saw a dog heading our way. When I'm keeping her in a sit while treating her, she'll let a dog pass within a foot of her while staying focused on me and the treat. Now when she sees another dog heading towards us, she'll frequently react by looking up to me expectantly, slowing down and sliding her butt toward the ground. I'll pull out a treat, but not stop to give it to her until we get fairly close. In general, she seems much calmer.

The neighborhood dog people are amazed at the change. I'm amazed it took me so long to figure this out.

Submitted by Kristen | June 17 2014 |

That's fantastic :D

Submitted by Jaq Bunn | January 30 2010 |

A really good, thought-provoking article. My take on this is that there is a big difference between the human version of providing reassurance and the animal one. Our version is often laced with worry and anxiety at the fear that our dog is displaying and this is what the dog picks up on and learns to associate with the fearful stimulus. If a human is capable of providing a strong enough presence that doesn't project anxiety then a soothing pat or simple physical contact can help the dog.

If a fearful dog comes to me, I see this as the dog asking for me to display strength and provide 'shelter' from the fearful stimulus, not reciprocate his emotional state.

I always think of the response of the mother animal when a stimulus frightens their young; they don't wrap themselves around their young and whimper with them, they stand strong and deal with the offending stimulus if possible, or if there isn't one, simply relax and allow the anxious young to make physical contact with her, to show them with her own behaviour that there is nothing to fear.

Submitted by chelly and bunny | February 1 2010 |

Bunny, my 2 1/2 yr. old Cockapoo, started demonstrating fear (crouching down, eyes squinted) when some trucks and buses go by on the streets of NY. Now she had never had a problem with this previously. I don't know what happened to make her scared but it's gotten worse and worse. I tried the old "keep her walking, don't give in to her" approach. And she won't eat any treats (she's not that treat oriented) when she was scared. Her favorite thing of all is to chase the red light of a laser pointer so I've started carrying one on our walks and when I see her demonstrating fearful behavior, I point her light so she can see it. I think I'm noticing a difference since I started a week ago. It seems to get her mind off the noise and onto something she loves. I hope it continues working and that she loses this fearfulness. After all, living in NYCity, she's always going to be hearing noises like this.

chelly & bunny

Submitted by Anonymous | July 21 2010 |

I believe that there are different types of fear, fear from a thunderstorm is much different than fear of another dog or people etc. I would coddle my dog during a thunderstorm but will not coddle it when it shows fear of another dog/situation. When a dog goes over a certain threshold of fear there is no counter conditioning that is going to work, the only thing that will work is getting the dog out of the situation calmly.

Submitted by Margaret | September 2 2010 |

"The most important factor in increasing cortisol was the presence of other dogs." Yes! We had two dogs, and the younger was terribly frightened of both fireworks and thunderstorms, then we got a 5 month old puppy who is fearless, and, guess what? Our middle dog now stays out with the other two during both thunderstorms and fireworks! I wouldn't have thought to believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Not that everyone can handle more than one dog, but, wow, that puppy sure has made a difference!

Submitted by Anonymous | February 20 2011 |

I have a foster dog is afraid of people because she was mistreated and lived in a puppymill for 6 years. She is still afraid of me but scared to death of men. She did come out of her fear when I had a friend's dog visiting. I agree that other dogs bring out fear. Any suggestions on how to bring this girl around. She is currently taking prozac but I do not see that it is really helping.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 22 2011 |

I own a boutique and many customers have used the thunder-shirt for any anxiety; car anxiety separation anxiety, loud noises etc. they have all reported positive feedback in seeing a difference in their pet. I would highly recommend it. It mimmicks a hug wrapping itself tightly on your pet.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 16 2011 |

Thunderstorms are rare in my area, but we do have the occasional fire alarm. When the system was tested last month, we were home and my dog immediately started looking for a place to hide. I got some tasty treats out, and just fed him treats. It worked, he was still anxious but no longer trying to hide and visibly relaxed a bit.

The important part of this is next time the alarm goes off, hopefully he will look to us for treats instead of hiding (which would be problematic in an actual fire).

Submitted by Mimi D | June 22 2011 |

I completely disagree with this article, but I think the discrepancy lies in the wording of the initial bit of conventional wisdom. You said: "You’ll just teach them to be more fearful" by petting them when they react fearfully. No. You're not going to teach them to be MORE fearful, but you're certainly reinforcing the existing reaction. When my dog does something right, he often gets stroked and scratched behind the ears in lieu of a treat. It's a reward for him! Personally...I stand by the fact that you shouldn't comfort and coddle a dog in these instances.

Submitted by Dawn | March 12 2012 |

gesh.. sure hope you don't have children...
where is the compassion? why should your dogs just have to "deal with it".
If my child or dogs are every afraid I will do everything in my power to try to lessen their fear. I used to believe this and started doing the jolly routine (think that was john rogerson) and would get them working and playing during storms, but recently if we are in an area that can't happen or middle of night then they find comfort in just curling up next to us and being pet and talked to. I have also found thundershirts to be very helpful too!

Submitted by Anonymous | July 5 2014 |

You wouldn't be saying that if it was your dog jumping through plate glass windows when the neighbor unexpectedly set off fireworks. You would do anything in your power (I hope) to calm your dog and help them cope through situations that are difficult for them. I seriously hope that if you have children you don't "ignore" them when they are scared!!!!!!! There has to be a heart in there somewhere......right? You don't really mean to be heartless. I think maybe you just haven't had a dog that has ever shown serious signs of fear. We have "inherited" a dog we love to pieces. She goes crazy at fireworks, gunshots and thunderstorms. We are in the midst of trying to find what works for her but this is our first Fourth of July with her and needless to say, I have scratches down my neck, my arms and anywhere else she was trying to hide or find comfort because she went bats*!t crazy on us when fireworks started going off. Last night ended with our dog getting two benadryl and me a multitude of bandages with antiseptic while our other dog slept peacefully. I will be trying just about everything discussed here except for ignoring her. So, thank you all for your suggestions. I so appreciate having somewhere to turn when everything I did didn't seem to work very well. Here's hoping that the next thunderstorm or barrage of fireworks doesn't send me to the emergency room needing stitches or needing to have a 75 pound pitbull cut out of me! I wish you all the best of luck with your phobic dogs.

Big smiles and hugs from,

Krissy and Mamas (the mean old pitbull!)

Submitted by Luke | August 7 2011 |

Gee, I dont mean to be rude but John sounds like a modern day dog whisperer lol
First I think this is an excellent article that certainly brings to light some of the ancient "rules" that people just assume are right and accept as the norm.

Secondly some of johns comments just don't make sense...
First he says, through his "energy" he picked up the dog after the fight and the dog seemed to calm down and trust in his energy.
Then follows up by saying anyone who comforts a dog that is in a fearful state are idiots???

Well it seems to me, however you word it, all you have done is calmed a dog down while it was scared...
Therefore I don't think you should call people idiots for doing what is natural. As most decent people who consider their dog a pet, as opposed to a working dog or a dog with a specific job, consider that pet to simply be a member of the family and are only doing what any parent would do for their child.

I am glad someone is standing up and saying that it's ok to do something different, or simply what YOU think is right.
I know 1 thing for sure, if my dog knows it can come to me when it is scared for comfort and reassurance and that makes my dog feel better in ANY way, then guess what I'm going to do...?

Submitted by MVMeehan | October 20 2011 |

Dr McConnell is the very best person to tell us how to help our fearful animals. She combines the best of modern science studies with the old-fashioned handed-down habits AND her heartfelt love for all animals.
My first dog changed completely due to her advice and training.
There are many reasons why her classes at th Vet school in Madison WI are always booked up with long wait lists:
she is kind and smart and has more hands-on experience with a wide variety of pets and 'feral' animals.
It might be challenging to follow her method without a live person in front of you, but try some of her videos! They are super!
(signed)
Maureen, a very happy past client!

Submitted by Anonymous | May 29 2012 |

The Anxiety Wrap works for my thunder phobic/gun shy dog . Whenever we hear a scary sound out comes the wrap and Moe chills out. He even sleeps through the night!

Submitted by Cindy Ludwig, M... | July 2 2012 |

Works for my dog and my clients' dogs as well. I have found the Anxiety Wrap, the original and only patented pressure wrap to be an indispensable tool in my toolbox of tricks to help dogs with all sorts of anxious behavior.

Submitted by Bonnie | July 2 2012 |

For years I have tried everything I knew to try and comfort my terrifed dog during thunder storms, lightning storms, fireworks and such in South Florida. I have ended up sleeping on the floor of my closet with him (no windows) with the fan on to try and drown out the noise and shield the bursts of lightning, to laying with him on the laundry room floor (no windows) with the dryer running, a night light shining and a fan on again to drown the noise. Some things seemed to work, but nothing really stopped his core-shaking fear. I felt so helpless. I wish I had seen this article years ago. Thanks!!

Submitted by brundyln | July 2 2012 |

Thanks for such great alternative insight.

I talked to a human clinical psychiatrist last Friday and explained the circumstances behind Bruno T Bears sudden onset of astraphobia (along with the noise fear thing. His thinking is that The loss of his lifelong companion and Alpha dog, the GSD, Dylan, has more to do with the sudden phobia than his blindness. I would love to hear back from both the lay and the pro (especially you, Dr. jen)

Happy 4th evryone

Mike (Brundyln) Rufo

Submitted by Jean | July 2 2012 |

Thanks so much. Such a loving approach. We have been so confused about what to do for our old Lab. The Thunder Shirt helps a bit, as does his being able to hide in the closet, and he comes to us for hugs; now, we'll try the meat treats; but we wonder how he does when we are not home to comfort him.

Submitted by Lexy | July 2 2012 |

When I adopted my dog Gizmo, He was feral and rescued by animal control along with 10 other dogs. The first three days with Austin pets Alive he did not move or eat he was so shutdown. I fell in love with him and knew how I could help him, so I adopted him. It took him two full months to be willing to come up to me on his own (only if my other dog Maggie did at first). The whole time he would just look to my other dog for comfort and be her shadow. At that time I had to completely ignore him, waiting until he was ready to come to me on his own. He was not food motivated. Once he was comfortable with me I had to do the same thing socializing him to other people. When new people would come over, he would bark, growl, and hide. I asked them to ignore him so they weren't a threat to him. I would also try ignore him so he would look to them for attention as well. After months of doing this once he wasn't so fearful, he did begin to take treats and attention from new people. All in all, I only gave him attention when he asked for it and comforted him when he needed it. The rest followed.

Now he is an extremely affectionate little boy. He loves attention from new people especially when they are calm and sweet to him the first time. He barks once when a new person comes over, and may go and sit under the coffee table for a minute, but id doesn't last long. His confidence grows every day. He even LOVES kids!

Every dog is different and needs different things but i definitely think CCC is perfect for fear based dogs. Its not "coddling" or "spoiling", but merely giving the dogs what they need, when they need it.

Submitted by daniel | October 24 2013 |

thanks for your words. Kind of mirror my situation (first days of new dog). Will follow your advices.

Submitted by Lexy | July 2 2012 |

When I adopted my dog Gizmo, He was feral and rescued by animal control along with 10 other dogs. The first three days with Austin pets Alive he did not move or eat he was so shutdown. I fell in love with him and knew how I could help him, so I adopted him. It took him two full months to be willing to come up to me on his own (only if my other dog Maggie did at first). The whole time he would just look to my other dog for comfort and be her shadow. At that time I had to completely ignore him, waiting until he was ready to come to me on his own. He was not food motivated. Once he was comfortable with me I had to do the same thing socializing him to other people. When new people would come over, he would bark, growl, and hide. I asked them to ignore him so they weren't a threat to him. I would also try ignore him so he would look to them for attention as well. After months of doing this once he wasn't so fearful, he did begin to take treats and attention from new people. All in all, I only gave him attention when he asked for it and comforted him when he needed it. The rest followed.

Now he is an extremely affectionate little boy. He loves attention from new people especially when they are calm and sweet to him the first time. He barks once when a new person comes over, and may go and sit under the coffee table for a minute, but id doesn't last long. His confidence grows every day. He even LOVES kids!

Every dog is different and needs different things but i definitely think CCC is perfect for fear based dogs. Its not "coddling" or "spoiling", but merely giving the dogs what they need, when they need it.

Submitted by Cindy Ludwig, M... | July 2 2012 |

Thank you Dr. McConnell for bringing the voice of reason in a sea of bad information floating out there on the internet! You are a breath of fresh air! This is an article I will share with my clients and on my Facebook page.

I second the vote for the Anxiety Wrap, the original and only patented pressure wrap. I have used it on one of my own dogs (who doesn't have sound sensitivity anymore) and regularly recommend it to my clients with anxious dogs, but I am forever trying to explain the role of behavior modification along with any of these adjuncts. Thank you again for being the authoritative voice of reason!

Submitted by doggo | July 2 2012 |

Here's a borderline case about which I'd like your opinion: I have a dog who is protective/territorial/nervous reactive to dogs and people. He puts on a big show to get everyone to stay back behind an invisible line. At the vet, this is amplified by fear (he frequently expresses his anal glands if they take him away from me), and I have him wear a muzzle for the vet's peace of mind. So the question is, if I'm holding him still for the vet to take his temperature, etc, and he's growling and thrashing to try to scare the vet away, do I comfort him or scold him or just ignore the behavior altogether?

(Yes, I know I should be working on him outside that environment, and I am, but it's an unavoidable situation.)

Submitted by Anonymous | July 9 2012 |

while there may be differing ideas on how to change your dogs behavior, in my experience you need to take control.
dogs live in packs with a defined hierarchy, the top dog controls the behavior of the other dogs in relation to the packs survival.
as top dog, he decides who is friend or foe, your dog is unsure of your leadership, or if he is a dominant dog, he may believe he is the boss. I have been through this with my australian cattle dog, she is very protective and suspicious of strangers. we changed our way of dealing with her, making her work for affection or treats, ( by doing her tricks or sits or downs etc) she got nothing for free. she was physically put in a sit or down if she didn't obey instantly, WE ARE THE BOSSES ! we got some of our braver friends to do some food style obedience with her, and after she had improved, we also had them make her lay down and put their feet on her gently, so to prove dominance.
it took a few months, and i still won't trust her 100% but she is much friendlier now with our guests.

good luck, frankie and tango

Submitted by Susan Frensley,... | July 2 2012 |

Awesome article. Thank you.

Susan

Submitted by Anonymous | July 2 2012 |

I think the article entirely misses the point. There is a fine line between coddling and reassuring. Coddling could promote more fearfulness, and could inadvertenly reward the animal for its fear of loud noises. Reassuring is completely different and done with the intent of calming the animal, giving it a safe place to wait out the noise, and most importantly, to allow the animal to build confidence within itself. Coddling will just promote an environment of fearfulness because you have trained it to be afraid. Reassurment allows the animal to take responsibility for its feelings and to self-soothe, and learn to be calm. In our house, my corgi hates the booms associated with fireworks, so quickly comes to me as a safe place. I stroke her, tell her that it's ok, and find her a safe quiet place to relax. Yes, she will pant, she may shake for a little while, and if she wants to curl up beside me, that's ok, but I'm not going coo and baby her and reinforce her scared feelings. Dogs can learn very quickly how to calm and reassure themselves, we need to give them the space to do it, and they will. There are huge analogies with children here; they will grow into the the strong example you set for them.

Submitted by Gregoropulous | July 3 2012 |

THANKYOUTHANKYOU yes, THANKS AGAIN for this ever-timely article!

I purchased Rescue Remedy this evening and li'l kd is "OUT LIKE A LAMP" (sorry; a line from the infamous play "Greater Tuna"). I only gave kd 1/2 the usual dose to get her started a day early) !!!

My late dog Roger use to howl so much, even when his hearing was practically gone, that we'd try to find a cottage away from Seattle for the July 4th holidays (and when the Blue Angels come here for four days of dog torture during our summer "Seafair"). I tried the equivalent of "dog headphones" to negate the noise, but that invention isn't a solution on an 8-month old Cairn Terrier's li'l skull.

I was surprised how easy it is to purchase Rescue Remedy or other homeopathic solutions (the clerk at All The Best dog boutique gave me a sample of Ark Natural's Happy Traveler to later give to kd; the clerk said Happy Traveler could be used along with Rescue Remedy [I'll check if this is correct info. or I'll give it to a pal's pooch}).

I hope Rescue Remedy and Happy Traveler are almost as equally easy to find, if they work, to hopefully help neutralize or at least reduce the pain of this tradition I frankly wish would fade away (hey, smoking in public has fairly well left many locales, and IT use to be an act of patriotism for soldiers to puff-puff/hack-hack/sputumize/sputumize).

Be a patriot: wave the flag; sing "America the Beautiful!"; and make your pooch pal sing w/ ya! Need we always follow noisy traditions which cause pain for our canine pals?

Love,
Greg O. Ropulous

Submitted by Jane Eagle | July 4 2012 |

I LOVE Patricia McConnell! I have read several of her books, and treasure them.
I rescue dogs and have several of my own. I used to love fireworks, but now we hunker down, close all doors and windows lest someone go through a screen, and I rarely leave the yard on the 4th. Around here, many towns do fireworks on the 3rd as well, and small ones are legal in the next town, so I have idiots setting them off for days. I have ALWAYS petted, held, and otherwise comforted dogs when they are terrified; and I agree that it does not seem to help them, but it makes me feel like I am doing something.I love thunderstorms, but we almost never get them where I live (it's been years). Knowing what is coming, I often give the dogs Rescue Remedy or herbal Valerian. Many vets recommend acepromazine, but it has been found that it makes the panic WORSE, because it tranquilizes the dog to the point where their body will not react, so their mind is even more terrified.
Ignoring a panicked dog is so counterintuitive! Thanks, Patricia, for being a voice of reason.

Submitted by Shona Moon | August 28 2012 |

A brilliant well written article that everyone can relate to. As a Tellington TTouch Practtioner this article is brilliant for promoting TTouch as the touches really help calm a dog during a thunderstorm .Thank you Paticia McConnell for yet another brilliant bit of advice

Submitted by Anonymous | March 14 2013 |

I agree. When thunder rolls my darling, almost fearless, (English) Staffie runs to me, presses up against my legs or under my chair/desk, whatever he can do to get close. I always picked my children up when they were frightened - yes, so if my dog is frightened of course I'll do the same. A steady hand on his neck, an arm around his shoulder or stroking his back tells him he is not alone. I agree the fear does not subside but it does not subside in me either, I hate thunder too, but we go through it together and that is why I have a dog - to share things with.

Submitted by Robert | March 28 2013 |

Interesting read. I found this article searching for a cure my clients' service dog's new fear of restraunts. Please excuse my spelling here as having no spell check has become a crutch. Anyways the fear started off w/ him shaking every time the toaster at home was used and now restraunts and even hybrid buses causes him to shake now. She would hold him upset trying to calm him down. (Her fear while comforting him is making it worse) Respectively I am of the a opposing side of this argument. Might be a guy thing or plain tradition... or experience w/ hunting dogs. Its the owners fear factor and I agree totally dog owners may not even know they are contributing. The ice cream analogy seems off a bit. Equivalent story to the robber while you are eating ice cream would be a repeat of a simular story that I can relate to with my shepard. Dog is eating food thunder strikes he quits eating and hides. An analogy that closer defines giving treats and petting would be set by intial formation of fear you can be eating ice cream if you want and its dark out. You hear noise outside looking up you see a man looking through your kitchen window. You call the police and they respond and give you comfort. Comfort and a 100 dollars for the tip just for the heck of it. What are you going to do next time you hear that sound out the window? Now w/ owner fear? OK the cops show up and have a bad story about this guy breaking into houses and murdering people and they can't seem to find him, but he seems to like only this neiborhood.. They don't have the man power to patrol here and he never leaves aanyone alive that has saw him... The problem that I'm running into is although my clients dog has developed this fear in less then a year a two year plan to solve or minimize it would be just too long. And there is no way I'm solving this like we do our hunting dog's fear of guns. She is in way to much of a dog replacing kid personality, so much as even dressing him in baby cloths to get the oh factor from people in public.

Submitted by Aimee | September 6 2013 |

This was an interesting article, and I agree with much of what you say, but I think there are a few links that are missing. Many people that I know who believe that petting their dog during a storm is beneficial are not doing it in a calm soothing manner. They, themselves tend to get so worked up that their attemp to soothe or comfort their dog actually gets the dog into a higher state of arousal. Like the article says, fear feeds off of fear. And this is where the reinforcement comes in to play - it's the heightened state of fear that is being reinforced in this case. The article says "research on thunder phobic dogs suggests that petting does not decrease the level of stress in the dog receiving it. If it doesn't decrease stress, how could it act as a reinforcement?" This point is contradictory to the rest of the article, as anyone familiar with conditioning will know that reinforcement refers to an increase in the likelihood of a behaviour occurring. Therefore, the quoted statement actually demonstrates that it is likely that petting a dog can act as a reinforcement for the fear behaviour, because it is increasing the likelihood that the same emotion and behaviour will occur again in the future. I like the ideas behind this article, but in general. It was not well thought out or well supported.

Submitted by Donna Hill B.Sc... | September 12 2013 |

I'd be looking a treating the underlying cause of the Tstorm phobia. Surprisingly, a chiropractic vet visit might be the cure! We had good success with my 4yo BC who started reacting to Tstorms out of the blue. The atlas (vertebra at the top of the spine that allows the head to turn in every direction) and the vertebra just above the hips tend to be out of alignment. Put them back in and the problem may be at least partly solved for many dogs. The atlas is linked to the inner ear which affects reception of air pressure, sound and motion detection. This correction actually has solved 95% of dogs that get motion sickness. There is a vet in Australia doing some preliminary research on this.

Submitted by Shaun | May 27 2014 |

My dog Chase, a seven year old golden retriever was panting and drooling.
He wasn't eating so i broke a treat in half and gave him on half. Then I put the other half in his food and he happily ate his food

More From The Bark

Illustration by Lauri Luck
By
Barbara Smuts
Big vs Small Dogs
By
Karen B. London
By
Patricia McConnell
More in Behavior & Training:
Dogs Take to the New
Zack's Amazing Transformation
Bringing Home a Second Dog
Cautious Canines
Aggression in Dogs
Q&A with Denise Fenzi
Training Dog Trainers
Is Your Dog a Southpaw?
Run for Your Quality of Your Dog's Life
Learn How to Train Dogs at ClickerExpo 2014