Its raining today; not just raining but pouring and storming. And I have to admit that I love it; being originally from the North East I often grow tired of the South West weather or lack of it. Yes sunny and warm is glorious but sometimes I just want some weather; something to make me stay in with the hounds all day. Well today was that; we were jolted awake before 5 am with a thunderous boom and bright flashes of lightning. All was fine until the big one. I was out shooting the lightning when BOOOOOM, a crack of thunder so loud accompanied with the a full sky lightning show. It was the kind of boom that sends shivers through your whole body.
Tilley is the only one who isn't fond of thunder but now she seems okay with it being that she is losing her hearing, a nice benefit of aging. But this one could not be silenced; this was one of the biggest booms that I have heard. I nearly jumped out of my skin myself; it made me immediately head for cover. And as I ran in I realized that all the dogs were up; standing up on the bed, startled. Luke was obviously the most concerned; he had his ears plastered back and his eyes were in fear mode. "Say nothing," I immediately told my husband. It is hard; our human reaction is to comfort, but if we comfort we fuel the fear. I know that many of you think that your dog needs comforting when they are afraid; but what they really need is guidance.
Luke looks for eye contact; he wants to know how we feel about this, you can see him doing it. So when we act like nothing just happened or what has just happened is amazingly great; he immediately calms. If you have a dog that is already fearful it may take a while; many repetitions of calm guidance from you and the family. It doesn't change overnight but if you give off the right messages you can see it start to work immediately. I reacted to the thunder because I was startled myself; this fueled Luke's reaction. But; as soon as I saw that he was indeed having a fearful reaction I shut it down; I stopped talking immediately and made a point of saying how cool the next one was. He kept an eye on the situation but was no longer fearful.
It can take some bigtime control not to react; or to react in a way that does not come naturally. But it's worth the effort; a dog who has a fear response can become so bad that the reaction itself becomes a danger to the dog. So again; chill is the name of the game.