Storms & Separation: Tough Sledding


Third in a series
Harvey’s stone sampling diminished quickly with medication for his intestinal disorder. His daddy, Don the designated household pooper scooper, seldom found landscaping rocks in his spaniel’s stool anymore. Harvey’s intense fear of storms and intermittent wild jumping at the clothes dryer continued.

There is robust evidence that our brains are often influenced by problems elsewhere in the body. When Harvey’s intestines felt better his barking, pacing, and destruction when home alone improved somewhat but he had additional reasons for his separation anxiety. In most cases, it’s a dog’s genetic programming that sets this disorder into motion. The brain, with its intricate network of neurons and neurotransmitters, is considered the most complex organ in the body. It strains my brain to unravel and improve the misery of some of my patients. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine; a challenged mind performs better longer. So they say.

Poor Harvey lost his mind during Northern New Mexico’s summer thunder storms. Noise phobia, another genetically influenced behavior, is an added bonus in 30% of dogs with separation anxiety. Harvey needed to feel safe, whatever change came crashing down on him. Confining him wasn’t the answer.

To prevent damage to their furniture Diane and Don had already tried crating their dog when they left home. To gather details on this pupster’s coping skills I suggested they purchase a $7-$10 table top tripod (local retailers or for their smart phone. That was an eye opener. Harvey’s agitation was obvious during quiet weather. But when thunder storms rolled in he flung himself around inside his cage.

I recommended leaving the crate open and adding a dog door to make it easy for Harvey to dive into a dark closet during storms. On sunny days he could scavenge from food-dispensing toys buried in his outdoor digging box. These methods work well only when the overwhelming anxiety is controlled. Safe prescription medication is essential to the wellbeing of dogs like Harvey.

Next week: Rain or shine, good weather or bad, Harvey sometimes assaulted the clothes dryer. Why not the oven?
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.