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Dogs Are Less Stressed By Thunderstorms If They Are With Others

Article Date: 8th January 2006

Researchers in the USA have found that nervous dogs are less fearful during thunderstorms if they are housed with other dogs.

In this interesting study dogs which normally show signs of anxiety during thunderstorms were exposed to a recording of a thunderstorm and their stress responses were measured by looking at their behavioural response and the cortisol levels in their saliva during and after the experience.

Dogs which were kept in the presence of other canines that remained calm during the storm recording had less of a fear response and returned to normal more quickly than those without calm canine companions. The relationship with their human owner did not seem to make any difference to their fear. It was pointed out that dogs were only exposed to a recording of thunder and they may behave differently during a real thunderstorm. (Dreschel and Granger; 2005)

This is interesting since it is believed that owners could inadvertently make the stress response worse in dogs during noisy thunderstorms. If an owner responds to the dog's show of distress by attempting to comfort it, as is often the case with a well intentioned owner, then they are rewarding that behaviour and the response will be repeated in the next similar situation. This study may also have implications for dogs with a fear of fireworks who may benefit from the presence of a non-fearful canine companion when firework displays are expected.

Dreschel N.A. and Granger D.A. (2005) Physiological and behavioural reactivity to stress in thunderstorm-phobic dogs and their caregivers Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol 95, pp153-168

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