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My dog, Jake, is from the Joplin, Missouri tornado. He is very skittish and shakes at shadows or when there is a strong wind. Or when its just raining he shakes horribly. Is there anything I can do to make him more comfortable?
Having such a traumatic experience like this can definitely take its toll on a dog. If I’m understanding the question correctly every time it starts to rain or if it gets very windy he starts to “shut down.”
What I recommend doing is getting things that he usually can’t resist and start to give them to him when you know the weather is about to get bad. This will work in two ways; The first is as a distraction. The second is it will get him to start associating the rain/wind with things that he loves, which with repetition can get him to start to tolerate when it is raining or windy etc.
I recommend trying to be very interactive with him, which goes along with using his favorite things as a distraction. Try to do basic training or even trick training. This will only be possible if he stays under “threshold.” When a dog gets above threshold it is basically shut down. When a dog is shut down all you can do is try whatever you can to help him relax. Try some massages etc. Some say never “coddle” the dog when it is like this, as it will make it worse. In response to this there is no scientific data to back up that argument so if someone tells you that just nod and smile. If the dog is stressed and you are doing something to help it relax, my question would be how could that make it worse?
A good place to start this may be a room that blocks out as much background noise as possible. When things are going smoothly and he is getting more comfortable go to a room that lets in a bit more noise. The ultimate goal would be to do some work out on a porch or somewhere covered but is still around the elements. This is only possible if you do it in steps. If you try to move too quickly with this you will probably end up flooding the dog, which will result in him going above threshold.
If this is very severe, (which I imagine it is) it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian to discuss the use of a medication. Extreme stress is not good for the dog’s health. Utilizing a medication can help take that edge off which can help him relax resulting in making more progress in a shorter period of time. A couple other things that could help are D.A.P. (Dog Appeasing Pheromone), a Thundershirt, and certain calming music. It may also be a good idea to have a certified trainer come to you to help give you a hand with this.
Thank you for the question!
Kevin Duggan CPDT-KA
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.