The kennel is situated between the two lightning rod locations which reduces the risk of the trees nearby or the kennel itself getting hit by lightning. Generally, the dogs aren't concerned by the storms, they just go inside until the weather calms. But, this summer, Mosby has developed a storm phobia.
The storms we've had up until last night have not been bad, a few lightning strikes but mainly heavy rains. Mosby has reacted by finding the loose spot in the kennel fencing, getting out, then standing by the gate, panting and nervous. He's fine once I get him inside, which I now do whenever storms are predicted.
Mosby has never been bothered by storms before but I think it must have something to do with being older. This had happened with one of our other dogs, Abby, a few years ago, again starting when she was about ten. Research was in order!
I found a couple good sites on the internet and a good book at the library. I learned some very interesting things!
Storm phobias can worsen as a dog ages, just as I suspected. And, as I know from experience, the phobia can become "contagious" from one dog to another. I don't want the other dogs to learn from Mosby that thunderstorms are something to fear so we've become very quick to get him out of the kennel.
Behaviorists can't pinpoint what the dog is reacting to--the lightning, the thunder, the wind blowing or the sound of rain on the roof. Some dogs will start with their phobia symptoms well before the storm arrives. This could be caused by the sudden drop in the air pressure, the electrical charge in the air, or with their acute sense of smell, the dog can detect the change in the air scent before the storm.
Some dogs, especially those with long coats (and Mosby has lots of coat!) can feel the static electricity of a thunderstorm before it arrives. The electricity in the air causes little shocks to the dog, which would be very disconcerting! This theory I have experienced myself.
I had Abby outside with me while I was gardening. It was a beautiful morning, blue sky and no clouds. Suddenly, Abby became frantic and ran to the back door, scratching to get in. She was panting heavily and showing all the signs that a storm was near. I was puzzled as the sky was clear and no storms were predicted. But then, the hair on my arm stood up and the lightning rod on the radio tower started to crackle. I looked up and a dark storm cloud was overhead. Abby and I got inside just as the cloud burst and the rain started!
Another theory in the July/Aug 2001 issue of Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association is that genetics plays a part. Herding dogs are bred to react quickly to stimuli but not to be aggressive from it. A collie could have a strong reaction to the startling noise of thunder and flash of lightning but repress their natural aggressive response, thus causing their anxiety.
For Mosby, I think it's a combination of factors. I'm sure the change in atmospheric pressure must bother his geriatric ears and with his abundant coat, must feel the static electricity. I not only want him in the house to relieve him of his anxiety, but that the other dogs don't learn that storms are to be feared and start to react by association.
In Mosby's case, being inside resolves the problem so exposure therapy to de-sensitize him would not be effective. I'm hesitant to fix the loose spot in the kennel fence on the chance that we would not be home when a storm started and Mosby would harm himself trying to get out.
During last night's storm, we had tree limbs blow down next to the kennel. I found Lauren outside this morning, sleeping by the front gate. She and Mosby share their kennel spot so she's either learned from him that storms are scary or is starting with her own phobia at 8 1/2 years old. I'm glad she was safely able to get out of her kennel when she needed to but we won't take any chances from here on out. Both Lauren and Mosby will be indoor dogs frequently, especially during this heat wave and the chance of sudden, severe storms! Hopefully the other dogs won't become afraid of bad weather after last night. They seemed quite nonplussed when I checked on them this morning but did seem disappointed that my early morning visit didn't include breakfast!
|What a surprise when I opened the kennel door and found these tree limbs!|
|Ref and Gemma didn't seem to care that this was just outside their fence.|
|We were very fortunate that this fell next to the kennel and not on it! Only the top rail of the fence had minor damage.|
|This tree limb was on the play yard fence. The dogs were content to stay in the kennel with their fan while David was busy with the chain saw!|