Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Curing Thunder Phobia

Those of us who are familiar with the Natural Dog Training philosophy are so used to being ahead of the curve on some training issues it can sometimes come as a shock to us when we find out how many of the techniques we've been using for years are met not only with skepticism but hostility by others in the field.

Barking at the Storm: Curing Thunder Phobia in Dogs

Years ago -- back when my dog Freddie was having almost daily panic attacks over any little sidewalk noise here in New York City -- I ran into a dog owner I knew who had a Sheltie named Duncan.

I told him about Freddie's panic attacks and he said that Duncan had once had a similar problem. He was afraid of thunderstorms.

"How did you help him get over it?"

"I didn't. He got over it on his own."

"Okay, but how?"

"I don't know. One day he was scared out of his wits. Then out of nowhere, he barked at the thunder, and that was the last time he was ever afraid."

This made sense, because Kevin Behan had once said to me that "aggression cures fear." So, I reasoned, if a dog can bark while he's frightened, even if there's nothing to bark at, the fear may go away -- as it did with Duncan -- just because of the barking, and nothing else. 

As a result, whenever Freddie had a panic attack after that, I gave him the "Speak!" command. He didn't always respond right away; it's hard to listen to commands when your brain is full of fear and static. But once he did bark, his tail, ears, and shoulders immediately came back up, and he gave me a look, as if to say, "What are you looking at? Are we going for a walk or are you just gonna stand there?"

Over time, his panic attacks grew less and less serious, I think partly because of what I learned from Duncan the Sheltie. (I eventually resolved the issue altogether using a technique from Kevin Behan's book, Natural Dog Training.)

I'd like to know if anyone else has a story like this! It doesn't even have to be about fear-related issues, though would be great too. 

Over the years a lot of readers have given me great stories about how Natural Dog Training techniques have helped their dogs get over fear, aggression, and other behavioral and emotional issues. I'd like to stockpile as many of these stories as I can for a possible future book on solving behavior problems the natural way!

Thanks! I look forward to your stories! 

"Changing the World, One Dog at a Time"