My dog needed counselling

Poor Bertie needed help getting over his fear of storms.
Jenny Weston

Jenny Weston, 53, Croydon Park, NSW

My husband stood outside our house as thunder roared nearby. ‘Listen to that,’ David, 46, beamed. As it went quiet, he raced to the back verandah to watch lightning flash across the sky. Then he ran to the front again as the thunder cracked loudly, rattling the windows.

‘Amazing!’ he said. The whole time, our schnauzer poodle pup Bertie chased his heels and barked.

David’s a bit of a storm addict and checks the weather app on his phone so he knows when one’s coming. At the time, we thought Bertie was just being playful. But when he was one year old another big storm hit. I saw him pant and lick his lips and his pupils were dilated. He was pacing around too.

As a vet, I recognised these symptoms. ‘I think Bertie’s suffering from storm phobia,’ I said.

Jenny holding her schnauzer Bertie
Jenny with Bertie. (Credit: Jenny Weston)

David was usually laid-back, so Bertie must have been distressed when he charged up and down in a storm.
‘It’s frightening him,’ I told my husband.
‘You’ll have to stay outside when you storm watch.’

To help Bertie overcome his fear, we needed to do some behaviour therapy – like 
counselling for dogs!

David’s weather app warned us when the next storm was due.  That morning, I gave Bertie some anti-anxiety medication. Then, when the storm hit I distracted him with the help of our sons, Oliver, 13, and Michael, nine. They played fetch and got down on the floor with him.

Bertie was so excited licking their faces, he didn’t notice 
the thunder rumbling above. I also did some basic commands, like roll over, wait and shake. ‘See, nothing to worry about,’ I soothed, giving Bertie a treat after each one.  In the background, we kept the television at its regular volume. ‘That way everything seems normal,’ I told my kids.

Bertie is three now and no longer needs the medication before a storm. I’m thrilled the therapy worked for him. Now all we have to do is keep him busy when the weather takes a turn.

Thanks to counselling, we have a much more peaceful pooch!

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 28, 2016.

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