I read a fabulous article by Debra Flick - Scrunchies and Lavender Candles for Thunder Phobia? Yep. - on solving a serious dog anxiety issue. Pepper the dog was a really serious case. At the onset of a storm she’d begin by pacing and panting. This quickly escalated to racing from room to room and chewing at the carpets and floorboards. Bad news! Luckily she hooked up with a talented trainer who initiated some innovative therapies which really paid off.
So how did this trainer John Visconti produce such amazing results with a hair scrunchie, a lavender scented candle, a white noise machine, CD of soft music, and some food? If your dog suffers from serious anxiety issues I highly recommend you read the article and find out! It’s quite amazing and it reminds me of techniques I learned during a course to become an NLP practitioner. It’s all about positive reconditioning of brain patterns. Instead of trying to train Pepper not to react to thunderstorms the trainer chose to create a positive environment with such strong positive anchors and associations that Pepper would be immune to the thunderstorms when in that environment. In the end it worked and Pepper now seeks out this specific room to take refuge from the storms. A fantastic result and what a change!
Among the tools that John Visconti would normally use to alleviate this type of canine anxiety is the Thundershirt which we carry at Waggle. One important take away from this article for me was when John Visconti mentioned he wouldn’t put a Thundershirt on an anxious dog just when a storm was brewing. This would work to reinforce the dog’s mental connection between the Thundershirt and the unpleasantness of the storm. If you are using a Thundershirt it’s really important to put the shirt on your dog during times when your dog is relaxed and happy to solidify a connection between the shirt and a chilled out feeling. Once established as a positive experience the Thundershirt can then be applied during times of stress.
This article provides a really positive outcome to a situation which I’m sure leads many very anxious dogs to being abandoned at shelters. There are ways to solve these problems! If you know anyone with a dog who is suffering from extreme anxiety like Pepper’s please pass this article along to help and inspire them.