One of the opposites of fear is confidence or assurance. When our pets are fearful, how can we teach them that the fear is unwarranted? There are many ways via animal behavior that can help such as desensitizing an animal to certain things like loud noises. The problem with playing a tape of thunder is that it doesn’t take into account the change in the atmospheric pressure, which triggers many animals.
I can only tell you that I am getting many phone calls and emails from people who are having success with their pets who have been traumatized by thunderstorms. The answer is a combination of bodywork [TTouches], ground exercises, which boost the self-confidence of the dog, and a body wrap. If you haven’t been to a clinic and experienced the body wrap, I suggest you put a dog coat or T-shirt on your dog and secure it around the belly with a piece of elastic or make a knot on the back with a scrunchie. Even try cutting a hole for the tail so that it can go over the buttock area. We find that many animals that are fearful of loud noises hold tension in their hindquarters and if you can release this, you will start to see a change in attitude from you pet. A body wrap can act like a swaddling blanket on a baby – very calming.
Ear work can be very soothing to animals and most really love it. Also if you know how to do Abalone circles, they are the most soothing touch of all. It’s the regular circle and a quarter but it uses the entire hand: both palm and fingers. When you reach the end of the last quarter circle, hold the skin for a second or two, and then do a SLOW release. If you have a shivering dog, you’ll find that often on the hold, the trembling with momentarily stop, then start again when you release the skin. Keep doing this on one side of the body, supporting with the other hand on the other side. The trembling will slowly recede.
Another thing to remember is that it is very tempting to sooth your dog to relieve his fears, but we can make them worse if we get too concerned. If the fear is mild, it’s sometimes better to go about your business, talk matter of factly to the dog and not make a big deal of it. If you want to do touch work on your dog, DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE STORM! You’ll be much more successful if you do the work now, relieve tensions in the body and boost your pet’s confidence. Then when the thunder starts, he’ll be less likely to react. And if you do need to do TTouch work during the storm, it’s already been established as something good and not necessarily associated with the thunder.
The idea of the groundwork is to bring more awareness into the body of your pet. If you do simple exercises at a slow pace, the body learns to be perfectly balanced. Try setting up a simple maze in your garden or see how well your dog picks up his feet over poles and different textured surfaces. If he has any problems, do some long strokes down his body into his feet as well as circles and python lifts on his legs. Remember, it “Can’t Hurt, and it Might Help”! There is a description of Python lifts as well as other touches on the international website at www.ttouch.com and a description of ear work, tail, mouth, etc. on the South African website at www.ttouchsa.co.za