HELP YOUR DOG "WEATHER" THUNDERSTORMS

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20-yr veteran dog trainer provides simple tips for dog owners to help their dog lessen thunderstorm fear.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    CONTACT: Kimberly Ring, Marketing Manager

                 773/588-5718 or 312/596-3121

HELP YOUR DOG “WEATHER” THUNDERSTORMS

CHICAGO, IL (PRWEB) July 1, 2003 – As anyone with a thunderphobic dog will tell you, thunderstorm season has arrived. While there isn’t a fact available on how many dogs are affected, pet owners and veterinarians know that thunderstorm anxiety is a serious problem. Symptoms can range from pacing and panting, to destruction of houses, serious injury, and even death to the dog itself. This is also disturbing emotionally to the owners as they see their dog in distress and can’t ease its suffering.

    Only theories exist about what parts of a thunderstorm affect dogs so negatively. Dr. Barbara Simpson, PhD, DVM, Dipl. ACVB, of The Veterinary Behavior Clinic in Southern Pines, North Carolina, is a leading authority on thunderstorm phobia. During her talk, “Clinical Treatment of Thunderstorm Phobia,” given at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2002 Convention, Dr. Simpson stated, “The disorder is triggered by one or more of the stimuli associated with storms, such as wind, rain, thunder, lightening, changes in barometric pressure or ionization, and low frequency rumbles that precede storms.”

    Susan Sharpe, owner of Animals Plus LLC, and developer of The Anxiety Wrap tm (patent pending), understands the dilemma this anxiety causes and offers tips pet owners can try to help their dog get through thunderstorm season. “First determine what part of the storm causes your dog to react,” explains Susan. “Doing so will enable you to better help him through it.” One example is a dog that chases and barks at the lightning or thunder through the house. “This dog might fair better in a crate with a cover over it to help minimize the lightning while placing a radio or television on near the crate to help with the thunder,” says Ms. Sharpe.

    The next step to take is to see if your dog can find a safe place where he can remain calm through the storm. “Sometimes this is the bathroom, sometimes it’s the closet,” explains Susan. She adds, “as long as the occupants of the house are okay with the location of the safe place and the dog remains calm without undergoing further trauma, this is an acceptable solution.”

    Unfortunately, many dogs cannot find a safe place and will suffer great anxiety as the storm rages. Dogs sense a storm’s arrival and departure hours before and after their human friends do so the suffering can go on for hours. If a safe place can’t be found, Ms. Sharpe offers the following tips. “You might try attaching the leash and walk your dog through the house, asking him to perform certain behaviors or go up and down stairs, etc. By redirecting your dog’s focus you may help him let go of his perceived danger. Make your house an obstacle course and give the dog juicy treats for maneuvering through, especially during a stressful situation. Gently engage your dog in whatever his favorite activity is whether it’s a game of fetch or hide and seek.” Don’t give up if you don’t see improvement right away. A thunderstorm is a major event and the frequency of their occurrence is unpredictable. Sharpe explains, “Any of these exercises you can do with your dog is helping to create a better association between him and the storm.”

    The most important thing, Sharpe cautions, is to remain as neutral as possible while interacting with the dog. “Often we humans will try to reassure our dogs by talking in an animated way, sitting with, hugging, and petting them,” Sharpe explains. “Unfortunately, giving them special attention even with the best of intentions can actually reinforce their fearful behavior. To a dog, this out-of-the-normal behavior can justify his anxiety. After all, something must be wrong or his human wouldn’t be making such a fuss. Also be sure to never punish the dog for his fearful behavior.”

    One way to try and prevent thunderstorm fear from ever beginning is to make the most out of that critical first year of puppy hood. Along with extensive socialization, Susan recommends playing ball or other fun activities with the puppy whenever a storm occurs while the puppy is not showing any signs of thunderstorm fear. Some people have luck using CD’s with thunderstorm sounds; however, this doesn’t work for everyone, as it can’t mimic the all-around sensory experience.

    If your dog does not have thunderstorm anxiety, do your best to keep it that way and occasion-ally play ball or give treats during a storm. Just because your dog doesn’t have thunderstorm anxiety now, doesn’t mean it won’t develop at a later age. “We have had many people come to us when their dog developed thunderstorm anxiety at around seven to nine years of age,” explains Susan. “We don’t know why it occurs in older dogs, but the best bet is to occasionally reinforce the desired calm behavior.”

    Ms. Sharpe is the creator of The Anxiety Wrap, a wrap that helps calm animals and lessens/

ends thunderstorm fear. Launched two years ago with Kimberly Ring, a fellow Tellington Touch Prac-titioner, The Anxiety Wrap has helped hundreds of dogs (and cats) weather storms calmly. Sharpe and Ring are currently working with Cornell University to develop a research study on the product’s bene-ficial effects and the Anxiety Wrap was added during Dr. Simpson’s lecture at the AVMA Convention as a novel way to treat thunderstorm fear. The Anxiety Wrap is available at http://www.anxietywrap.com and is sold on sitstay.com, KV Vet Supply, and sourcemenagerie.com, to name just a few.

Thunderstorm Tips Summary:

Step One:    Determine what part of the storm causes your dog to react

Step Two:    See if your dog can find a safe place

Step Three:    Redirect your dog’s focus to help him let go of his perceived danger

Important:    Remain as neutral as possible while interacting with your dog

To Help Prevent Thunderstorm Fear: Socialize your dog from puppyhood to associate good things with storms and occasionally reinforce this throughout his/her lifetime.

Susan Sharpe

Animals Plus, LLC 2003

BRIEF BACKGROUND – Susan Sharpe, Owner of Animals Plus, Creator of The Anxiety Wrap

•    20 years experience as a dog trainer        

•    Bailey’s Advanced Operant Conditioning & Clicker Training Camp

•    Indiana’s only certified Tellington Touch Practitioner    

•    APDT Member (Association of Pet Dog Trainers )

•    Private and class instructor, All Dogs School

•    Purdue’s “Principles & Techniques of Behavior Modification” which includes canine development, social structure, prevention of behavior problems, aggression                

•    Doggie Resort, a vacation for your dog while you’re away

•    Military style training including obedience, article search, obstacle, tracking, drug detection, & personal protection

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY – Barbara Simpson, PhD, DVM, Dipl. ACVB

    Dr. Barbara S. Simpson is a licensed veterinarian and specialist in the field of veterinary behavior. She is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and is Certified by the Animal Behavior Society as an Applied Animal Behaviorist. Dr. Simpson earned her DVM degree from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and her PhD (with specialization in Animal Behavior) from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has published numerous articles and lectured widely on applied animal behavior problems.

Currently, Dr. Simpson is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she teaches animal behavior to veterinary students. In addition to consulting and conducting clinical research, she works with individual clients to solve their pet’s behavior problems at The Veterinary Behavior Clinic, a private referral practice, in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

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Kimberly Ring