Wind phobia is a real thing your dog may have to contend with. Just like humans, dogs and cats can have phobias. They can develop through unpleasant interactions with items. Or they can be something that comes from within. Common fears that dog owners come across are things like thunder and lightning or fireworks. This is so common, it’s a reason why we have to be extra vigilant during New Year’s Eve or when fireworks might be left off in our local area as it can cause dogs to leap fences, runaway and generally get themselves into a jam.
Dogs also have less common phobias that can still detract from enjoyment of everyday life. Water, car rides, stairs and different floor coverings can all trigger issues in a dog. Loud noises and unexpected sounds can also heighten feelings of fear.
Dogs can have phobias about strangers, men, children and certain human characteristics. It may be associated with past experiences during the puppy stage- and it may not be. Fear and phobia doesn’t always have to make sense. Just ask any human that is afraid of flying or spiders! We don’t have to have been through a bad flight or bitten by a spider to have these fears. Dogs can inherit fears through socialisation with their dog family and potentially on a genetic level.
One of these less common but prevalent fears is a fear of wind. This fear can pose a huge problem in Wahroonga because it can get quite windy here. And we’re also a very green and leafy suburb, which means there are lots of trees, plants, flowers, wind chimes and other garden items being tossed about in high winds.
That’s why we are going to take some time to understand wind sensitivity in dogs and look at some strategies you can employ to help your dog or puppy reduce the impacts associated with wind phobia
What to look for in an anxious dog
Phobias in dogs will show as heightened anxiety. Anxiety is fairly easy to spot, especially in a usually happy go lucky dog. Things to watch out for include:
- Peeling back of the ears
- Licking lips
- Reducing their size as if cowering
- Moving slowly or in a very purposeful and stiff manner
- Trying not to attract attention
- Barking continuously at objects and/or specific areas
- Jumping in fright at sounds and movements
- Being alert and aggressive and/or alert and rigid
- Wanton destruction that is not in keeping with their usual behaviour
- Submissive urination and loss of bowels
To truly understand if you have a dog phobia on your hands, it’s better to come and have a consult with a vet. You can discuss the kinds of behaviours your dog is engaging in. Then your vet can help you design a plan to reduce your dog’s phobia in terms of impact.
The following are some of the ideas your vet may suggest to help your dog reduce their wind phobia.
Use music to help soothe your dog
Dogs find music soothing. This is why they are commonly used with Assistance Dogs Australia to calm the puppies during training with the soothing sounds of jazz. In addition to jazz, dogs will often like classical music, ambient and instrumental tunes of a calming and soothing nature.
One of the ways you can increase the ability for your dog to self settle during a time where their wind phobia may be heightened is to play soothing music during positive moments in your dog’s day.
It hurts nothing to whack on some jazz or classical during the following moments:
- When your dog goes to sleep at night
- During nap times
- When receiving a treat ball or peanut Kong
- When happily crated
- During soothing pat sessions
This helps connect the music to happy, positive experiences. This in turn gives you the ability to use the music as a soothing agent when your dog may be distressed.
Experiment with using scents
Dogs are highly driven by their nose. That’s why scents can really help your dog when they are feeling certain tricky emotions. The same way we may have positive associations and even feel calmer when smelling some scents, your dog too can be soothed and even calmed by the use of scents.
Lavender oil calms human and dog alike. You can dab a little on the collar or use a diffuser. Australian bush flower remedies have also been known to calm a stressed pup. As have Bach flower. We suggest you consult the vet before trying flowers in case of different allergies and hay fever.
Another specific product you can use is Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP). DAP is a synthetic version of the pheromone secreted by a nursing dog when feeding and tending to her pups. This is why it has such a calming association with a fearful dog. It brings them right back to the greatest comfort of all, feeding with Mum. You can ask our Waroongha vets about DAP and whether it is suitable as a part of your dog’s wind phobia treatment.
Change the focus
Enrichment toys are a big part of helping you conquer wind phobias in dogs. By using a Kong, a favourite puzzle or an interactive dog toy, you can distract your dog from those feelings of fear while giving them a happier association.
Just as we might try to distract ourselves from being afraid with TV, books or doing things, your dog is looking for the opportunity to do the same.
This is another reason why we stock a wide variety of enrichment toys at our Wahroonga vet clinic for you to buy. They can be used successfully in everything from recovery from surgery through to phobias in dogs.
Plus, you don’t have to have an appointment to come and view our selection or get some helpful advice from the vet nurses on what enrichment toys may help your dog. Just come on in during normal business hours and ask.
Break out the doggy massage
Dogs love pats and massage. That’s why it’s a powerful calmative when they are stressed. With the hands on feeling of deep pats, gentle massage and human touch, your dog can relax. It helps break down the rigid and tight muscles of a stressed dog in the thralls of their wind phobia. It also means they can take their lead from you- that it is a time to relax and unwind, not stress.
Look for points that are particularly soothing for your dog, such as the spine, the neck and the muscles between rump and leg. Knead these areas and give soothing pats as you move from nose to tail down the body. Be careful to avoid any area your dog doesn’t enjoy being touched so that the sensation is as stress-free as possible.
You may even find the gentle massaging helps your dog go to sleep, another great antidote to anxiety and phobia in dogs.
For added brownie points, massage and pat your dog out of the phobia stage with DAP in their favourite room while music is playing. This is a great way to bring on a calm, content pup when wind strikes.
Consider a thundershirt or similar garment
Think of the calm, comforting swaddling of a baby. Now check out the dog equivalent, the thundershirt. A thundershirt is a tightly fitted yet comforting tee shirt style wrap. It fits around your dog’s shoulders and torso, attaching with Velcro.
Thundershirts feel like a big warm full body hug. They reduce the anxiety and make your dog feel sheltered, held and protected. It’s great for wind phobia and other sensitivities your family dog may face.
Applying pressure to the abdomen, the thundershirt hits a calmative point in your dog. This helps trigger natural sensations and hormones that help your dog resist the phobia and feel safe and secure.
Thundershirts do take time to work with dogs. This is especially true when introducing it to a puppy and/or a dog that is not used to wearing coverings and garments. However, the feeling that these garments and similar jackets can give can really help your dog when a phobia takes hold.
Not only for wind phobia in dogs
While we’ve focused today on wind phobia in dogs, similar techniques can be applied to help dogs with all kinds of phobias. The right path can often be tricky to find. That’s why we urge you to come in and speak to one of our vets and our vet nurses about the options available for your family pet.
Some dogs have such strong phobias they also benefit from dealing with a veterinary behaviourist. You may also find that your dog’s phobia is so debilitating that perhaps behaviour modification, medication, diet and a proper treatment regime is required.
The first step to overcoming and understanding phobias in dogs starts with that initial vet consultation.