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Canine Behavior/Thunder Storms & Wet weather

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Question
Hi Jill,

We (Chicco, Cookie & me) have another question for you:

To recap: Chicco is a pure-bred Shih Tzu male (fixed, 11 yrs old, no health issues); Cookie is also a pure-bred Shih Tzu female (fixed, 7 yrs old, no health issues).

Last night, we had our first 'major' Spring thunderstorm. Chicco has had major storm phobia right from day one (has episodes of panic, pacing, sallivation & occasional incontinence during the storms). To help him his anxiety,I place him in his kennel, turn on the radio & leave the lights on in his room. This has worked in the past, but now he is incontinent right in the kennel (during the storm). We have tried medication to keep him less agitated, but it has not produced the results I would like (to greatly reduce his storm anxiety). His vet suggested Prozac, which would dope him up & decrease his quality of life (always aloof).

My girl Cookie also has issues with cold/wet/rainy weather: she will not go to the bathroom on wet grass unless she is taken on lead; yet she will go on her own with no problem in snowy weather.

Any suggestions on how to 'enjoy' the Spring/Summer storm season with less hastles & issues for all of us are greatly welcomed :)

Warmly,

Tina, Chicco & Little Cookie (Saskatoon, Canada)

Answer
NO PROZAC or any SSRI.  These medications can (and do) increase anxiety in humans (and can even induce suicidal ideation).  The dog can't "report" what it's feeling.  I worked with these medications in cooperation with my (then) veterinary partner and they JUST AREN'T SAFE.

Any sedative agent is "safe" so long as it can be administered fairly (no force) and providing it is not in the class of drugs that inhibit learning (i.e., benzodiazepines).  I recently saw an astounding event that occurred in Canada (I believe in the Manitoba region) where a huge tidal wave of ice destroyed a community!  Hope you are never in the path of one of THOSE!  Yikes!

Prozac does NOT "dope" anyone "up" but it does have side effects that are unwanted in a significant number of the population so as to make it not safe in dogs.  Additionally, it has to be taken every single day and the dog must be carefully and slowly weaned off it.  This is a bad choice.

Don't crate Chicco.  Confine him to a safe area (like the kitchen), soft music playing; don't "coddle" him or "soothe" him (I know our human tendency to attempt this is HUGE but for a dog it rewards the fear).  Storm anxiety is enormously difficult to extinguish and, at age 11, it's highly unlikely ANY counter conditioning will work.  So the aim is to make the dog as comfortable as possible and basically (no matter how "bad" it feels, and believe me, I know it feels "BAD"), IGNORE HIS FEAR.  Once the storm has passed and he is clearly recovered, ask for trained behavior and heavily reward it.  You might also try to put him on leash during one of these anxiety attacks (pure fight/flight response).  As a dog ages, just as in SOME humans (not ALL), cognition can reduce.  Putting a dog on leash, keeping him near you (in a place where his incontinence - a result of fear - won't result in a spoiled carpet), not saying or doing anything but remaining CALM (pop a mint in your mouth), may help him to feel calmer.  May.  But worth the try.

As for Little Cookie -- dogs learn that they have "no choice" but to eliminate in the rain no matter how much they hate it.  This is accomplished by punishing YOURSELF (lol), accompanying the dog on leash, standing out there and repeating "go pee" until she does, then running right back into the house while praising her.  It may take a while, but she'll get the "idea": when it's raining or grass is wet, I better hurry up and do what I have to do or this guy will have me out here all day.  :o)

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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