So. I am shit scared of thunder. I mean I will retch if ‘all the wrong components’ come together.
I am standing in my kitchen and I know there’s a high chance of thunder in a couple of hours time. I am lucky to be human and have this knowledge. I can prepare, the dogs have kongs in the freezer so they make good associations with thunder, and stay the hell away from me (I get irritable). My heart is already jumping when I here any deep rumbling sounds, lorries, motorbikes, wheelbarrows, I’m watching maps on my phone, the clouds, this is hypervigilence. Dogs will smell things too.
Why am I telling you this? And what has it got to do with dogs???
Firstly neither of us can tell you why we are so scared of something you enjoy or find exciting. It’s an emotional response, it’s important you know that comforting your dog will NOT make this behaviour worse. However, if anyone tried to comfort me I would hate it, so watch your dog carefully to ascertain what helps. Distractions, a game, a bone, a Kong.
Secondly, it has only just occurred to me that it is a form of hypervigilance that I experience when it might thunder/is thundering and I can now relate to how some dogs feel when they are worried about something. And it’s shit, it’s tiring.
Thirdly, there is a point (threshold) where you can still talk to me, when I can hear the thunder rumbling, the lightening isn’t too bad. This is the point where if I was a dog (IF), you could teach me things and I would still learn. Past this point I am useless and I can’t do shit, I can’t listen because I am waiting for the next crack of thunder, my mind is preoccupied (yes more than usual) and you can forget eating. This is what is known as being over threshold, dog experience this point too. All you can do is provide the dog with happy things (the dog needs to want these things otherwise they are sad things) and hope the fear doesn’t get worse.
Fourthly, there is an irritable, aggressive streak which comes out in me if people keep talking at me or do something I don’t like. Fear aggression.
Try to separate components for your dog so they don’t all come together at once (e.g.thunder and strangers).
If it’s really bad or getting worse seek professional help.
Dogs will experience things differently to me, and anthropomorphism isn’t a great thing, but clearly thresholds and hypervigilence occur in both me (humans?) and dogs.